LIONS INSIDER

FOUR DOWNS: Tough loss, holding their own fate, game management and pressure on Stafford

Posted Nov 24, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at four keys from Detroit's 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay

FIRST DOWN

GIFT WRAPPED

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be sending the Detroit Lions a thank you card in the mail sometime this week.

The five turnovers and blocked punt the Bucs forced in Sunday's 24-21 victory were as good as Christmas presents under the tree.

"You can’t explain it," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "It was a poor performance. We had a punt blocked. We had five turnovers. We gave up a play over the top. We played our butts off on defense the whole game and then gave up a play over the top for a touchdown and a coverage that we shouldn’t have given up on that play.

Jim SchwartzHead coach Jim Schwartz (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

"That’s how we ended up with a loss. Even though there were a couple of things that we did that were good to keep us in the game, it didn’t make up for the mistakes that we made."

Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions, receiver Kris Durham fumbled and the special teams had a punt blocked. To make matters worse, the Lions failed to get a single turnover of their own.

Schwartz was quick to give Tampa Bay credit for the win in his postgame news conference, but he has to feel the Lions gave this one away.

First quarter

11:24: A bad decision by Stafford to throw a short ball to Nate Burleson was tipped and intercepted at the Tampa Bay 22-yard line. The play resulted in Tampa Bay field goal.

Second quarter

1:01: Stafford’s pass in the flat intended for Brandon Pettigrew was intercepted by Tampa Bay cornerback Leonard Johnson and returned 48 yards for a touchdown.

Third quarter

5:43: Stafford’s pass to Calvin Johnson in the deep middle of the field was intercepted by safety Keith Tandy at the Tampa Bay 1-yard line. Tampa Bay punted on next series.

Fourth quarter

9:58: Sam Martin had a punt blocked and it was recovered by Tampa Bay at the Lions 11-yard line. In the resulting drive, the Bucs attempted a 35-yard field goal, but it went wide left.

5:43: Receiver Durham fumbles after a 19-yard catch along the sideline. Tampa Bay recovers at their 46-yard line. They end up missing a 50-yard field goal.

1:00: Stafford’s pass to Johnson was caught, jarred loose and intercepted by Tampa Bay cornerback Johnthan Banks. The Bucs ran out the clock for the win.

The Bucs scored 10 points off turnovers to zero for the Lions.

SECOND DOWN

STILL HOLD THEIR OWN FATE

The Lions have played terrible the last two weeks, but, amazingly, continue to hold their own destiny in the NFC North.

The Lions had the good fortune of seeing the Chicago Bears lose to St. Louis, 42-21, on Sunday and Green Bay and Minnesota play to a 26-26 tie.

That leaves the Lions still atop the division at 6-5 with the tiebreaker edge over Chicago and a half-game lead over Green Bay, with the Packers coming to town Thursday on Thanksgiving.

"It’s going to be a five-game season," Schwartz said. "As disappointing and as bitter of a loss this is, we have a short turnaround to bounce back.

"We have a five-game season. This does not eliminate us from the playoffs. It doesn’t do anything other than make the last five games even more urgent. Those are our marching orders over the last five games."

THIRD DOWN

GAME MANAGEMENT

All game decisions are placed under a more powerful microscope following a loss, but two, in particular, at the end of each half, deserve a closer look.

Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon completed a third-down pass short of the first down with 2:53 left in the second quarter. Instead of taking one of their three remaining timeouts, the Lions let the clock wind down and got the ball back with 1:54 remaining at their own 35-yard line.

It seemed the Lions could have saved 50 seconds or so with an immediate timeout and still had the two-minute timeout to count for their full allotment.

It doesn’t really matter in the end, because Tampa Bay intercepted a Stafford pass and returned it for a touchdown in the final minute.

In the fourth quarter, Stafford burned what ended up being an important timeout before a third-down play  with 1:06 remaining in the game.

When asked about the timeout after the game, Schwartz said the play clock was winding down and the Lions were trying to get different personnel on the field. He seemed a little perterbed about it.

Stafford threw an interception on the next play and Tampa Bay was able to run the clock out. Keeping that third timeout would have forced the Bucs to get a first down or punt to the Lions deep in their own territory with Detroit only needing a field goal to tie.

FOURTH DOWN

PRESSURE ON STAFFORD

The Lions’ offensive line has been very good in pass protection all year long, but Sunday was probably their worst performance of the season.

Tampa Bay recorded two sacks and four quarterback hits, officially, but Stafford was on the run a lot over the course of 60 minutes.

"They made it difficult," Schwartz said of the Bucs defensive line. "They rushed well. Give credit to where credit is due. Our guys knew they had a job ahead of them. I thought that their pass rush made things difficult on Matt.

"We probably had more pressure than we had the whole season. They were mixing up blitzes and also coverage. We didn’t make enough plays. We had opportunities and we didn’t make enough plays to win."