It was a lot closer than it needed to be, but the Lions hang on in Tampa to secure their first win of the 2011 season. The Lions dominated the first three quarters in all phases, but then allowed the Bucs to creep back into the game during a sloppy fourth quarter. The Lions started strong offensively with two long drives in their first three possessions, but missed huge opportunities in the red zone. On the first possession, Pettigrew dropped a tough catch in the end zone and on the third Stafford missed a wide open Calvin Johnson in the end zone. The Lions settled for field goals on both.
Sandwiched in between those drives were a field goal by the Bucs after a long kick return and a pick returned for a touchdown after a dropped pass by Will Heller. The Lions trailed heading into the second quarter, but took the lead on a brilliant fourth down touchdown pass from Stafford to Calvin Johnson. Stafford would throw another touchdown in the second quarter to Tony Scheffler from 11 yards out. After a bizarre series of events, the Bucs would get a field goal just before the half to draw within seven, 20-13.
The Lions would add another touchdown on a great jump ball to CJ from the one yard line to take a 27-13 lead. The Lions again dominated the Buccaneers in the third quarter and knocked Josh Freeman out of the game for a couple series. The Lions dialed up the running game to kill the clock throughout the second half mixing in Jahvid Best, Jerome Harrison and Maurice Morris.
The Bucs finally got their offense going in the fourth quarter when Freeman returned and Tampa shifted to a hurry up offense, as they scored on a great pass and catch from Freeman to Mike Williams with less than two minutes remaining. The Lions were unable to run out the clock and Tampa got a final shot at tying the game with a little over a minute. The Lions ultimately held on after a ridiculous lateral-fest on the last play of the game.
The two stories of the game were the Lions’ complete dominance and the mistakes and miscues. The Lions have been plagued by mistakes for years, and those mistakes continued today. Ill timed penalties, dropped passes that lead to points for the opposition and prevented points for the Lions. In the past, the Lions were unable to overcome mistakes like those, but today the Lions dominated the Bucs. The Lions only surrendered seven points to the Buccaneers that didn’t involve a miscue or mistake. The pick six and the opening field goal after the big kick return in the first half had nothing to do with the defense. The Bucs’ field goal before the half never should have happened because Coach Schwartz tried to ice the kicker, but he missed the attempt. The Bucs’ two longest drives came against a prevent defense and the only reason they were able to mount a comeback was because of Gosder Cherilus’ huge personal foul.
The Lions avoided surrendering a touchdown after the Bucs’ big kick return because of a great play by Stephen Tulloch on a third down sack. Freeman felt the pressure and pulled the ball down to roll out. Tulloch was spying him and broke hard after Freeman took off. Tulloch dropped Freeman for the loss and forced a field goal attempt. Huge momentum killer for the Bucs.
The Lions botched the end of half field goal attempt by the Buccaneers and it could have cost them big time. The Bucs lined up for a 51 yard field goal. Just before the snap Coach Schwartz called a timeout to ice the kicker. The attempt sailed wide and the Bucs got a second attempt. Suh was flagged for simulating the snap count and the Bucs got 13 yards on the penalty. Tampa took a shot in the endzone, which was broken up by Aaron Berry and then had to settle for a field goal. The Lions got too cute and istead of a missed 51 yard field goal, they had a close call almost giving up a touchdown and ultimately gave up three.
The Bucs came out with some momentum to start the second half after the field goal and receiving the kick. The Bucs picked up nine on first down and looked to have an easy conversion on 2nd and 1. The Lions shut them down on the next two plays with a pair of well defended running plays and killed any momentum by forcing a punt. The Lions turned their ensuing drive into a touchdown and took control of the game running the ball down the field and imposing their will on Tampa.
The Lions gift wrapped a chance to tie the game when Gosder Cherilus had a completely stupid personal foul called for a cheap shot after the whistle. That penalty backed the Lions up 15 yards, and stopped the clock preventing 30 seconds from running off. Instead of getting the ball back with 37 seconds, the Bucs got it back with 1:07 and almost tied the game up.