The Detroit Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to an ankle injury early in the first quarter Saturday against Tampa Bay. Already shorthanded in their coaching ranks due to COVID-19 protocols and also on defense because of injury, the loss of Stafford was simply too much for the Lions to overcome.
The Bucs took advantage of a depleted Detroit defense and no Stafford on offense, convincingly beating Detroit, 47-7, in the first of three Saturday NFL games.
The win clinches a playoff spot in the NFC for the Bucs, while the loss drops Detroit to 5-10 on the year with one game remaining next week against Minnesota in the regular-season finale next week at Ford Field.
Stafford suffered the ankle injury on Detroit's first possession on a second-down play near midfield. Stafford threw an incomplete pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson, while facing pressure from Bucs linebacker Devin White. Stafford stepped awkwardly after tangling up with White, rolling his right ankle. Stafford, who's been dealing with thumb and rib injuries, did not return. Chase Daniel and David Blough finished out the game at quarterback for Detroit.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady threw two first-quarter touchdowns to give Tampa Bay a 13-0 lead, and they never looked back from there. Brady threw four first-half touchdowns and guided Tampa Bay to a 34-0 lead at halftime. Brady did not play in the second half.
Tampa Bay led by as much as 40-0 before Jamal Agnew put the Lions on the board in the third quarter with a 74-yard punt return, his fifth career return touchdown, the most since entering the NFL in 2017.
Detroit's offense struggled without Stafford. They didn't cross into Bucs territory until the fourth quarter.
QB Comparison: Stafford completed two of three passes for 17 yards on the opening drive before leaving with an ankle injury.
Daniel played up until the fourth quarter and finished 13-of-18 passing for 86 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 82.2 passer rating.
Blough played out the fourth quarter for the Lions and was 6-of-10 for 49 yards with an interception and 32.9 passer rating.
On the other side, Brady was nearly flawless. He completed 22 of his 27 pass attempts for 348 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 158.3 passer rating.
Blaine Gabbert replaced Brady under center for the second half and was 9-of-15 passing for 143 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 131.4 rating.
Worrisome trend: The Lions' defense has struggled all season. They rank 27th or worse in every major statistical category.
They were down a number of starters Saturday, along with defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, and the Bucs took full advantage.
One of Detroit's biggest issues on defense the last couple weeks has been giving up the big play. A.J. Brown had a 75-yard touchdown last week in Tennessee. Davante Adams got them for a 56-yard score two weeks ago.
Tampa Bay took advantage of the big play too, scoring their first two touchdowns from 33 and 27 yards out. Detroit gave up six total plays of 25-plus yards in Saturday's contest.
View photos from Detroit Lions vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 16 game at Ford Field on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020.
Promising trend: Agnew nearly took a kickoff to the house two weeks ago against Green Bay (71 yards) and was responsible for Detroit's only touchdown Saturday on his 74-yard punt return in the third quarter.
Detroit's special teams have been good all year. Agnew ranks in the top 10 in both punt and kickoff-return average, but they've been waiting most of the year for the big return. That's two 70-plus-yard returns for Agnew in the span of three weeks.
Injury report: In addition to the Stafford injury in the first quarter, the Lions, already without starting center Frank Ragnow, lost backup center Joe Dahl to a back injury. Evan Brown finished the game at center for Detroit.
Next week: vs. Minnesota (6-9).