Lions 23, Bucs 20 (OT)

It’s ironic that Green Bay suffered a famous loss to the Bucs last year in a game that might have helped Green Bay win the division (Green Bay still needed another win because Minnesota had the head-to-head tiebreaker). Now, Green Bay benefits from a notorious loss. We certainly learned today that Drew Stanton belongs to start in the NFL. He has made plays in every game he’s played and his INT rate is better than Shaun Hill’s, with his completion percentage soon to follow.

This was the perfect example of how flawed the NFL’s overtime can be. The only time when it’s more flawed is when neither team is punting or even settling for field goals much all game (Detroit punted four times, Tampa Bay had three punts). When both teams are so evenly matched, it’s too bad Tampa Bay didn’t get a chance to answer.

Sure, I made a case that the Bucs should beat a team like this but Detroit is surely playing looser with nothing on the line and spoiler on the mind. They are certainly no ordinary 4-10 team and got their first road victory since October 28th, 2007 (a 16-7 win over Chicago).

Both teams passed for 252 yards with 0 sacks allowed by Detroit (remember when they gave up 63 and 54 in back-to-back seasons?) and 3 for 25 – making a net passing yards of 227 – for Tampa Bay. Neither team turned the ball over, not even on downs (though Tampa was 2 for 2 on 4th down. Their net punting averages were 31.8 (Nick Harris) and 32.7 (Robert Malone, neither punter making a case to be brought back). Both teams entered overtime with 1 rushing TD, 1 passing TD and 2 field goals. The Lions had 181 yards rushing. The Bucs had 176. The teams couldn’t be making more of a case that they should each get a possession. But, alas, this isn’t the playoffs and it doesn’t look like either team will be making the playoffs this year. The Lions won the coin toss and got a win, thanks in part to a man – Calvin Johnson – out-jumping boys for 10 catches and 152 yards.

THE GOOD

LeGarrette Blount
15 rushes for 110 yards including one back-breaking 39-yard touchdown. This would have been the steal of the draft if he had been drafted. He has absolutely stiff-armed and run over Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best as the best rookie running back in the league.

Mike Williams

I really can’t blame him for the conservative playcalling. Maybe Freeman wasn’t seeing guys open deep. It just seems like the other teams have been taking the games to the Detroit safeties because of their occasionally miserable cornerback play. Josh only had 2 completions of over 20 yards in the game, both to Mike. He finished with 6 catches, 96 yards and a touchdown.

THE BAD

The Play-Calling

The Detroit Lions you saw today will not be the same one you see next year. They will be adding new players to their defense. This is a unit that is 21st in points allowed despite having played the 18th-, 23rd-, 24th- (twice), 26th-, 28th-, 30th- and 31st-ranked teams in scoring. The Buccaneers should be getting aggressive. In both Atlanta games, they didn’t put the opponent away. Greg Olson should have been going up-tempo, spreading the Lions out.

The Defense
This was merely the second time this year they couldn’t finagle a takeaway but this was against a team that has turned the ball over multiple times in a game, nine different times.

LOOKING AHEAD: The New Orleans game now becomes a must. A victory over the Seahawks is what they must focus on. A season that started so promising has spiraled from 7-3 to 8-6. The offense and defense aren’t picking each other up like they did earlier in the year and they’ve had a run of games against teams on the rise (Baltimore, Atlanta) and teams with nothing to lose, like the sneaky Lions. While I think a lot of this blame rests on the playcalling, Josh Freeman is not getting the kind of completion percentage you expect when they run the ball like they did today but he’s playing good enough to win.


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