TAMPA – Burning questions: A mixed performance by the Detroit Lions on both sides of the ball, a weird touchdown return on the last play of the first half and short-yardage troubles in a rain-delayed start that ended in a 33-30 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third preseason game Friday night:
Question: What kind of a show did the Lions put on in what is considered the "dress rehearsal" game for the regular season?
Answer: It didn't win any awards when the starters were in, but the backups provided some entertainment when they took over midway through the second half and provided the rally that won the game.
It would have been better had it been the other way around – the starters having a good showing – but that's not the way it went.
Nothing should be taken away from the reserves for what they accomplished. The Lions have been building depth on the roster, and the players who were on the field in the fourth quarter are many of the ones who'll provided the depth.
Focusing on the first half and the first series of the third quarter, when the starters were still in the game, the offense couldn't finish off drives, and the Buccaneers were able to pass and run on the defense.
The defense gave up a long touchdown drive on the first possession, and the offense had to settle for field goals on long drives on its first two possessions.
Overall, all of the Bucs quarterbacks were able to complete passes.
There's a lot of work to do before the Lions open the regular season against the New York Jets on Sept. 10.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Q. Lions' D, first possession: The Bucs went 66 yards on eight plays and scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game. Was there anything good to say about how the defense started the game?
A. There really wasn't a positive play by the defense in the eight-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a 14-yard TD run by Peyton Barber.
The Lions didn't stop the run or the pass. The Bucs started the possession with three straight runs for gains of 5, 4 and 8 yards. Then Ryan Fitzpatrick completed three straight passes to put the ball at the 17.
Barber finished it off with two runs, getting the TD on a run through the right side on a third and one.
It wasn't a good start for the defense, to say the least.
Q. Lions' O, first possession: Was there anything good about getting a field goal on the first possession?
A. Yes. Getting a field goal was better than not getting anything, but the drive came up short in the red zone.
Matthew Stafford completed his first three passes, with the big one a 36-yard throw to Kenny Golladay on a scramble for a first down at the six. The Lions failed to gain from there and had to settle for a field goal.
Q. Red zone, dead zone: That was one of two trips the Lions made to the red zone in the first half without scoring. Is that a concern?
A. Yes. It was a problem last year, and it still is until proven otherwise by the starters. The Lions were able to convert in the fourth quarter when Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock were running the offense.
On the first possession, LeGarrette Blount gained a yard on first and goal at the six, then lost a yard on second and goal. A pass meant for Golden Tate on third down in the end zone was incomplete.
The Lions put together an impressive drive on their second possession, going 91 yards – from their two-yard line to the Bucs' seven – and failed to reach the end zone. Ameer Abdullah lost a yard on a first-down run, and two incomplete passes in the end zone forced the Lions to settle for a field goal.
Q. Short yardage: Does that still look like a trouble spot for the Lions?
A. Yes, and that's a disappointment because it's something that was targeted heavily for improvement. There were three runs in goal-to-go situations in the first two possessions, and the result was a net loss of a yard.
However, on the drive that ended in Matt Cassel's TD pass to Bradley Marquez in the fourth quarter, Blount got a first down on pure effort on a fourth and one, and Zach Zenner converted a third and one two plays before the touchdown.
Q. Riddick's run: He scored the Lions' first touchdown on a 10-yard run on first and goal in the third quarter. Isn't that a sign that there's some improvement in the run game in the red zone?
A. Yes, to a point. Riddick made a good, sharp cut through a hole to accelerate to the end zone. But it also came late in the third quarter, when the starting offensive linemen were out of the game.
The bottom line: A good run by Riddick and there's never anything wrong with a good play, but it would have meant more if the No. 1 unit had been in the game.
Q. Bucs' return strategy question: Any complaint with the Lions trying a 62-yard field goal on the last play of the first half? Matt Prater's attempt was wide and short, and Adam Humphries returned it 109 yards for a TD and a 20-6 Bucs lead.
A. No problem with going for the field goal. It was fourth and 12 at the 44 with seven seconds left, and the Bucs holding a 13-6 lead. Prater's kick was wide and short. Humphries was in the end zone for a possible return, and once he got in the open field he had an advantage because most of the players on the Lions' protection team were big linemen.
It didn't look good for the Lions, and it's probably a play that will end up on some blooper highlight reel.