*TAMPA BAY – *It wasn’t pretty, but with the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes most likely reliant on them winning out, a win is a win.
Detroit blew a 21-7 fourth quarter lead to the Buccaneers (4-9) on Sunday, but quarterback Matthew Stafford guided the Lions on yet another game-winning scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, capped off by a Matt Prater 46-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the game that gave the Lions a 24-21 victory and snaps their two-game losing streak. The win improves Detroit to 7-6 on the year.
Detroit’s defense generated three first-half turnovers, and the Lions led 14-7 at the break as they didn’t have to fight back from an early deficit in this one like they have in their previous four contests. The Lions scored a first-quarter touchdown for the first time in over a month.
The halftime lead felt like it should have been more, however. Stafford opened the game with 12 straight completions, but threw two second-quarter interceptions in Buccaneers territory that killed two potential scoring drives.
Detroit’s defense forced two more turnovers in the second half, the second leading to a Theo Riddick 18-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead.
Riddick rushed for two touchdowns (2, 18), and Golden Tate caught a 5-yard touchdown.
Turnover fest: Detroit and Tampa Bay combined for eight turnovers in the contest. Tampa Bay was responsible for five, and Detroit three.
For Detroit, Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs recorded interceptions. Slay, DJ Hayden and Tahir Whitehead recovered fumbles. Diggs, Glover Quin and Jarrad Davis forced the fumbles.
For Tampa Bay, cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Robert McClain had interceptions. Linebacker Lavonte David recovered an Eric Ebron fumble.
QB Comparison: Stafford showed no ill effects of the hand injury he’s dealt with all week. He completed 36 of his 44 passes for 381 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 91.4.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston was 26-of-38 passing for 285 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 86.0. Winston also lost a fumble.
Strange sequence: It took about 10 minutes, but the officials finally got a crucial fumble call that went the Lions’ way in the first quarter.
After Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard caught a 21-yard pass to the Lions 17-yard line pass, he was hit by Diggs, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Slay. But the officials ruled that the pass was incomplete, and that Diggs was penalized for an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver.
However, the pass wasn’t incomplete. Howard clearly caught it and took four steps before he was hit by Diggs, and Diggs clearly hit the ball, not Howard’s helmet, with his shoulder.
Referee Ed Hochuli initially announced that he would review the play but didn’t.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell then challenged the play, and it was determined that Howard had possession of the ball, and that because Howard had possession, he was no longer a defenseless receiver, and so the penalty should not have been called.
It took a while, but eventually the right call was made.
Ebron effect: Lions tight end Eric Ebron had a career game with 10 receptions for 94 yards. His previous high was eight catches for 93 yards.