TAMPA BAY – The Detroit Lions went on the road and began the fourth and final quarter of their season with a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.
At this point in the season, every win is at a premium. With Detroit's current standing in the NFC playoff picture, and a few of the teams ahead of them owning key tie breakers, it's logical to think Detroit had to win these last four games to get to 10 wins and give themselves a chance.
Their 24-21 win over the Buccaneers Sunday keeps them on the right path heading into next Saturday's home contest against the Chicago Bears.
"It was key for us," head coach Jim Caldwell said of the win after the game. "It was key for us to obviously play a team that's hard to beat in this stadium with Jameis (Winston) back there playing. They got weapons. They got people that can run. Overall, it's a talented team. So, when you can get one on the road in this league, it's a good thing."
The win keeps Detroit on their 10-win track, and also gives them another win within the conference, which is the tiebreaker in the chance that three teams finish with a similar record looking for a wild card berth.
The Lions now turn their attention to the Chicago Bears on a short week, as they try to defend Ford Field Saturday afternoon and put a notch in the win column against another NFC opponent.
Rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay had a rather quiet game with just three catches totaling 17 yards, but his 6-yard reception on 3rd and 2 at the Tampa Bay 36-yard line with under a minute to play turned into one of the key plays of the game for the Lions.
The catch gave the Lions a new set of downs, and allowed them to move another nine yards closer to the Bucs end zone to allow Matt Prater to kick the game-winning 46-yard field goal.
Stafford simply saw a mismatch, and threw a short pass up to Golladay (6-4, 213), who was one-on-one with Bucs cornerback Robert McClain (5-9, 195).
Golladay high-pointed the ball, and did a good job to concentrate and double-catch it after McClain initially knocked it out of his hands while draped on his back.
Golladay's made some big plays down the field for the Lions this season, but he can also use that big frame to box defenders out and make those key catches in the short and intermediate areas of the field ahead of the sticks and on third down.
"Man, it was a great catch, huge play in the game," Stafford said of that play that came with just 50 seconds left on the clock. "Kind of an audible at the line of scrimmage of seeing a look, and letting him go make a play and he did a great job of it."
There was an NFL.com report before Sunday's kickoff that Ameer Abdullah's inactive status Sunday wasn't strictly an injury-related issue, and that the Lions wanted to give some others a chance to try and spark their anemic rushing attack.
Caldwell was asked about the report after the game.
"We don't go into details about everything, but obviously he's still nursing an injury," Caldwell said of the neck injury that kept Abdullah out of the lineup for the second consecutive week. "But he's coming along. I think he'll be ready to go here shortly."
Caldwell was then asked if Abdullah was still the team's No. 1 running back when he does return.
"We don't talk about number ones, number twos," he said. "That's you guys' business. We just have a three-man rotation with three guys that we have up. All three guys play."
Theo Riddick, Tion Green and Zach Zenner combined for 44 yards on 17 carries, which is a 2.6 average. Riddick did rush for two touchdowns of 18 and two yards, however.
Also reported by NFL.com before Sunday's game was that the contract extension Caldwell signed before the season was only a one-year deal through the 2018 season.
Caldwell was also asked about that report after the game.
"We've never, never ever, ever been in the practice of talking about contracts and anything of that nature, and certainly not going to start today," he said.
— The Lions continue to miss rookie return man Jamal Agnew, who sat out his third straight game with a knee injury. Agnew is the league's leading punt returner. He's also Detroit's leading kickoff return man.
In his absence Sunday, TJ Jones averaged just 5.3 yards on three punt returns and 17.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
— Detroit's win Sunday puts them at 5-2 on the road this season with one more contest in Cincinnati left on the slate. Detroit is just 2-4 at home, however, with games against Chicago and Green Bay left at home.
"Yeah, it's one of those things typically, it's usually the other way around," Caldwell said. "You usually play pretty well at home. So, we got a chance this next week. We got a home game coming up. So, we'll see if we can improve upon that."
— The Lions shot themselves in the foot too many times in Tampa Bay with key penalties, especially on the offensive side of the football. Detroit was penalized eight times for 105 yards, which is way too many. The fact that Tampa Bay turned the ball over five times equaled things out some, but that's an area the Lions need to clean up before Saturday.