Welcome to my weekly post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment(s) the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the key moment or two where things went north or south for the team.
Wait, you mean we have to pick just one moment? From the Bucs’ 47-7 beat down of the Lions in Detroit? Whew. This is going to be tough.
Actually, never mind tough. Try impossible.
One could easily say the game-changing moment of the game occurred before kickoff even started, as the Lions were extremely short-handed on their active roster and their coaching staff. Quarterback Matt Stafford getting injured on Detroit’s first drive of the game was another turning point, although it might not have mattered much with the Lions defense that was out there.
But the Bucs deserve plenty of credit too, none more than Tom Brady. The team’s prize free agent made a number of high-degree of difficulty, perfect throws to give the Bucs a massive, 34-0 halftime lead, including an absolute dime to Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown on the team’s opening drive of the game. Brady’s brilliance helped Mike Evans get to over 100 yards at halftime, and the big receiver would finish the game with 181 yards – just 40 shy of the mark needed to break the record for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career.
The turning point of the game truly occurred when the Bucs went up 20-0, with Leonard Fournette finishing Tampa Bay’s third scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown plunge. The Lions gave up the middle of the field with ease on that short Bucs’ scoring drive, with Fournette making linebacker Jahlani Tavai miss twice in the open field for double-digit gains to get Tampa Bay into the red zone.
That drive probably buried Detroit’s hopes for good, and Brady threading the needle to Antonio Brown to close out the first half with a touchdown to go up 34-0 didn’t hurt, either. The Bucs were so dominant on the offensive side of the ball that it is hard to pick just one throw that stood out, but Brady converting a fourth-and-4 while escaping the pocket under pressure and throwing a strike to Brown two plays before the duo hooked up for a touchdown was pretty sweet.
Defensively, the Bucs totally overwhelmed a Lions offense that was without three of their best four players, picking up four sacks, forcing two turnovers and allowing zero offensive points. Devin White’s ninth sack of the season gives the Bucs an opportunity to have three players hit double-digit sacks for the first time in franchise history next week in Atlanta, as Shaq Barrett (eight), White (nine) and Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5) are all close.
So good luck picking just one game-changer moment from a game that ended up 47-7 on the scoreboard with 588 yards to 186 yards in the box score. It was a host of moments that got this Bucs team there, hoisting Tampa Bay to its first playoff berth since 2007, which was the second-longest postseason drought in the NFL.
Next up: securing the fifth seed in the NFC playoff picture against the division rival Falcons in Week 17, and getting Evans that NFL record.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft