Lions-Bucs Burning Questions: A 21-point hole for the Lions in a bad first half after a failed early opportunity, head coach Matt Patricia speaks to the defense on the sideline and an improbable rally becomes possible before it faded in a 38-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs at Ford Field:
Question: Does making a game of it with a rally in the fourth quarter make up for the Lions facing a 21-0 deficit midway through the second quarter?
Answer: No. If they're going to get some credit for coming back in the second half, they deserve blame for the way they played in the first half – and the first quarter in particular.
There was no question about the Lions playing hard, despite the won-loss record, in the first 13 games this year. But that was a legitimate question in the first half. The Lions were not competitive in any way in the first quarter.
The Bucs had a 9-1 advantage in first downs and 236-1 in yards gained in the quarter, and the stats reflected how lopsided it was in an uninspiring performance. The Lions got a spark near the end of the half, and they carried it to the middle of the fourth quarter when the Bucs gained control.
The bottom line is the result, and it was a seventh straight loss..
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 15 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019 in Detroit.
Q. Pick time, Lions: Any surprise that Bucs QB Jameis Winston threw his 24th interception of the season on the first possession?
A. No surprise. Winston added to his league-leading total, and he didn't waste any time in doing it. The only question would be how long before he threw another one – or a touchdown pass.
That didn't take long, either. He hit Breshad Perriman with a 34-yard TD pass on the Bucs' next possession. It was Winston's 27th TD pass of the season. True to form, he came back throwing after the interception.
Q. Missed opportunity, offense: What did it mean that they didn't get anything out of the turnover?
A. They had a chance to get an early lead and failed to take advantage of it.
They went three and out after Jahlani Tavai's interception gave them possession at the Bucs' 44 on their first drive. As undermanned as the Lions were, they needed to take advantage of every opportunity. They wound up with minus three yards on that possession, with a three-yard loss on a run and two incomplete passes.
Q. Missed opportunity, defense: Still in the first quarter, the defense couldn't force a punt when the Bucs had third and six at their five. What did that mean?
A. It meant the Lions put themselves in a deep hole when the Bucs kept the drive alive with a completion on third down. Two plays later, Winston connected with wide receiver Scotty Miller on a 33-yard TD pass to make it 14-0.
Q. Patricia rant: Head coach Matt Patricia had a long, animated exchange – a one-way exchange – with the defense after the second touchdown. Any thoughts on what that might have been about?
A. Obviously it had everything to do with how easily the Bucs moved the ball after the first possession ended with the interception. Winston completed 10 of 12 passes for 221 yards and the two TDs in the first quarter.
Q. Impact: Did Patricia's speech to the defense work?
A. The Bucs had to punt on their next possession, so something changed – for one series, anyway. However, the Bucs scored their third TD on the next possession to make the lead 21-0.
Q. Lions' FG, fourth and kick: The Lions finally broke through with Matt Prater's 44-yard field goal that made it 21-3 with 3:17 left.
The Lions had fourth and seven. Right call to go for the field goal instead of going for the first down?
A. Right call, without question. The Lions needed something good to happen, and getting the field goal to break the shutout was a small win for the Lions. Cutting the deficit to 21-3 was a small win – about as small as it gets – but it's something the Lions needed at that point.
Q. Lions' TD, rally possible? Did it look like they'd make an improbable comeback when running back Wes Hills scored on a one-yard run to make it 24-10 with 6:45 left?
A. A comeback was a lot more possible with a 24-10 deficit than when it looked impossible when it was 24-3.
It all depended on what would come next.
Q. Lions' second TD, rally possible? Did it look more probable that the Lions could come back when they scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 23-17?
A. Yes. Somehow, some way, the momentum had shifted completely.
After the second TD – on another one-yard run by Hills – the offense needed help from the defense and got it.
The defense held, forcing the Bucs to try a 54-yard field goal that missed.
The offense took over at the 44 with 7:59 left.
It was game on – something that seemed impossible at the end of the first half.
And it was game over – Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting returned an interception 70 yards for the clinching TD with 5:12 left.