Detroit’s dominant defensive front and its Matthew Stafford-led offense combined to take down Tampa Bay 34-17.
The Bucs’ third straight defeat drops them to 2-11 on the season with three games remaining.
Despite a constant struggle moving the ball on offense, Tampa Bay found itself down only 17-10 at the break following quarterback Josh McCown’s 5-yard scoring pass to receiver Mike Evans.
The touchdown was the first of two for Evans on the day, as the rookie pushed his season-long total to 10 and finished with four catches for 45 yards. Other than those scores and a 50-yard hookup from McCown to receiver Vincent Jackson (10 catches for 159 yards) that helped set up Evans’ first touchdown, the highlight-reel moments were in short order for the Tampa Bay attack.
Detroit dominated the line of scrimmage Sunday, sacking McCown six times for minus-43 yards and completely buried the run game. The Bucs finished with 26 rushing yards on 14 attempts and 233 total net yards of offense. McCown ended his day with a 67.3 quarterback rating while completing 20 of his 39 pass attempts for 250 yards and getting picked off twice.
Tampa Bay’s embattled offensive line played Sunday without starting left tackle Anthony Collins, who missed his third game of the year. Reserve Oniel Cousins stepped into the starting role and was no match for Lions edge rushers, but that was the case for the entire unit. Adding insult to injury was a bad snap from Evan Dietrich-Smith to McCown in the second quarter when the quarterback was under center that resulted in the second of three Tampa Bay turnovers.
“They got too much pressure on our quarterback,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said afterward. “We know that. Offensively, we couldn’t protect the quarterback. We couldn’t run the ball and didn’t get anything going throughout. We had a couple of long throws that got us a couple of points to where you look at the score and say, ‘Hey, we were able to do something.’ But we never really got anything going on the offensive side to give us a chance.”
Tampa Bay managed to keep the Detroit offense one-dimensional throughout most of the game, but Stafford took advantage of being on the field for over 36 minutes. The sixth-year quarterback completed 26 of 34 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns, with 158 of those yards going to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson on eight receptions.
The Lions did top 100 yards rushing but 57 of the 113 came on a single Joique Bell carry in the fourth quarter. Bell accounted for two of Detroit’s four touchdowns Sunday. The first came on a 1-yard run in the second quarter that put the Lions up 14-3 and he followed that up with a 5-yard catch from Stafford to cap the day’s scoring.
Tampa Bay defenders got to Stafford in the backfield four times to bump the team’s season total up to 30. Notching two of those sacks was defensive end Jacquies Smith and linebacker Danny Lansanah ended up as the Bucs’ leading tackler for the second straight week.
“Combination of rush and coverage working together,” Jacquies Smith said of the sacks. “I think the guys in the back end did a good job of making him hold it, and the rush did a good job of making him run around. We knew that was one of the keys to the game in not letting him stand there and pick us apart. It’s rush and coverage making him move around and guys chasing him down.”
Lansanah (game-high eight tackles) shifted from the strongside to the weakside last week in place of Lavonte David and started Sunday at middle linebacker for Mason Foster. David had to sit out the past two games because of injury and wasn’t able to finish Sunday’s contest in Detroit. The third-year pro exited late in the third quarter after suffering a possible concussion.
The Bucs’ first points of the game came early in the second quarter when Patrick Murray booted a 54-yard field goal to cut Detroit’s lead at the time to 7-3. The kick improved Murray to 5 of 6 from 50 yards or longer and 16 of 20 on the season.
Tampa Bay will make its final road trip of the season next week when the Bucs travel to NFC South rival Carolina for a 1 p.m. game against the 4-8-1 Panthers. The schedule then wraps up with home dates against Green Bay and New Orleans, respectively.
The announced paid attendance in the Ford Field dome was 61,489.
Buccaneers reported defensive starters: LE Jacquies Smith, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Akeem Spence, RE Michael Johnson, MLB Danny Lansanah, WLB Lavonte Davie, CB Leonard Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Johnthan Banks, FS Dashon Goldson and SS Bradley McDougald.
Buccaneers reported offensive starters: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Oniel Cousins, LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Demar Dotson, TE Luke Stocker, WR Mike Evans, QB Josh McCown, RB Doug Martin and WR Louis Murphy.
Active Bucs players not to enter Sunday’s game were QB Mike Glennon and OL Josh Allen.
Tampa Bay’s inactives were WR Robert Herron, LB Mason Foster, T Anthony Collins, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Brandon Myers and DT Clinton McDonald.