Buccaneers 24, Lions 21: Takeaways & observations
Flip the narrative. Find time to consider what you saw. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held onto a lead late, and they earned their best victory to date this season.
Few gave the Bucs a chance going into Ford Field against the Detroit Lions, a legitimate NFC North contender. Entering Sunday, this figured to be an intriguing showdown between Darrelle Revis and Calvin Johnson. But in the end, this game became about so much more.
For starters, how about a little redemption? The Bucs forced five Lions turnovers and continued a surprising recovery. Who would have guessed that a month ago?
Here are some thoughts and observations from the Bucs' 24-21 victory …
1. Tampa Bay took advantage of Detroit's self-implosion.
Count them again: The Lions had five turnovers. It's hard to win at any level when that happens, and the Bucs did enough to make Detroit pay for miscue after miscue.
Who would have guessed that without Dashon Goldson (suspension) and Revis, out for the entire second half because of a groin injury, that the Bucs could cause as much trouble for Matthew Stafford as they did? There are plenty of reasons why this happened: Pressure from the defensive line, opportunistic play in the secondary and mental blunders by Detroit. (Why is Stafford so reckless?) The way the Lions lost felt like so many Bucs defeats earlier in the season, and it’s somewhat surreal to see fortunes shift the other way.
Something has been different about this Bucs team since the Seattle game. We saw it again Sunday, and credit coach Greg Schiano for the latest example that a turnaround is underway. Few expected the Bucs to win here, and they don’t mind that one bit.
2. Revis' groin injury is concerning.
Rightfully so, this game was billed as the game's best wide receiver (Johnson) vs. the game's best cornerback. For most of the first half, the Lions appeared to shy away from Johnson, knowing that Revis was matched against him in man coverage on most occasions.
Revis left on the Lions' last series of the first half, and he wasn't seen on the field the rest of the day. Early in the second half, Detroit took advantage with Johnson lined up against rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks. Johnson finished with a game-high 115 yards on seven receptions, though Revis’ long-term health should be Tampa Bay’s larger concern.
The good news is that Revis seemed to be in positive spirits on the sideline in the late quarters. It’s too bad the Revis vs. Johnson matchup wasn’t a game-long study. But Tampa Bay must be pleased with the way Banks & Co. did enough to keep Johnson from beating them.
3. Bobby Rainey couldn't continue his remarkable ride.
Credit Detroit's defense for bottling up the sudden star all afternoon. It was clear stopping Rainey was a priority after he gashed the Atlanta Falcons for 163 yards on 30 carries in Tampa Bay's victory last Sunday. Rainey had a harder time finding open space against the Lions' physical front, though, and he was held to 35 yards on 18 carries.
I like the Bucs' trust in Rainey, but they went to the well too often in the running game. I would have liked to see more diversity when it became obvious that Rainey wasn't going to be a factor. Give credit to quarterback Mike Glennon, though, for showing that he can be more than a game manager and win a game when he must do so.
4. Detroit's supporting cast made an impact.
Considering that Goldson was suspended and Revis didn't play at all in the second half, Tampa Bay did a decent job on Johnson. But the Lions' other targets made their presences felt: Nate Burleson, who hadn't played since a Week 3 victory over the Washington Redskins, matched Johnson with seven catches and had 77 yards receiving with one touchdown. Brandon Pettigrew (three catches for 32 yards) and Joseph Fauria (one catch for 10 yards) also had touchdown receptions.
Detroit's offense is dangerous, so it was no surprise to see the ball spread around. Credit the Bucs, though, for forcing the Lions to move away from their running threat. They limited Reggie Bush for most of the day, holding him to 83 yards on 15 carries. Without a long run of 39 yards, Bush’s totals would have been even lower.
5. The Bucs proved they can hold onto a lead … again.
Give them this: The reputation that they're prone to bungle leads late in the fourth quarter is disappearing fast. The Bucs turned back the Miami Dolphins to win their first game, and Sunday was another example of a defense stiffening when it had no room for error.
Rian Lindell missed two makeable field goals in the fourth quarter that would have iced the victory much sooner. After both occasions, the Bucs' defense attacked the Lions, and Kelcie McCray's play on Johnson to jar the ball loose for Banks' interception near the end zone to seal the victory was the most crucial play of all.
Remember all those missed chances in earlier weeks? The Bucs haven't repeated history of late. That's a sign of growth.
6. This is a redemptive streak for Greg Schiano.
Remember when most of us left Schiano's Tampa Bay career for dead? Remember the boos, the cackles, the vitriol that "greeted" him when he ran into the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium after a loss to the Carolina Panthers to drop to 0-7?
Remember when his firing seemed like a forgone conclusion, and it was a real question whether he would finish the season?
Well, place all that talk on hold for a while. I still think Schiano must do more to save his job. You can't ignore what happened on the way to 0-8. But it's obvious the Bucs never quit on him, and Schiano and his staff should be praised for how they have handled recent tests, starting with the near-miss in Seattle.
Who knew a season that began 0-8 could be so intriguing? How long will this winning streak last? Can the Bucs pull off another stunner at Carolina next week?
Stay tuned. This is getting fun.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford
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