Five reasons the Lions topped the Bucs to keep playoff hopes alive

Matt Prater won game with 46-yard field goal

The Lions kept their playoff dreams alive with a 24-21 win against the Buccaneers on Sunday in Tampa. They move to 7-6 for the season. They face the Chicago Bears (4-9) on Saturday at Ford Field.

It was not easy and, at times, it wasn’t pretty either.

Detroit held a 21-7 edge at the half, but the Bucs came back to tie it in the fourth quarter at 21-21. Matt Prater kicked a game-winning 46-yard field goal with just 20 seconds left.

“It’s always been kind of a hallmark of ours, we look to battle at the end, our guys show great resilience, they don’t get nervous in tough situations at the end of games, they find a way to win it,’’ Caldwell said. “It might not always be pretty. We’ve always been like that, but we lost quite a few this year just the opposite side of that — Atlanta and Carolina were close at the end and we weren’t able to finish them. We had been uncharacteristic for a portion of the season, we’re going to see if we can be a little bit better this week.’’

The Bucs turned the ball over five times (three lost fumbles, two Jameis Winston interceptions) while the Lions had three turnovers. The Bucs were the 12th NFL team to turn the ball over five times in a game this season and the 12th to lose the game.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Here’s a look at five reasons the Lions won:

1. Give plenty of credit to Matthew Stafford who was 36 of 44 for 381 yards. Yes, he threw two interceptions, but he was able to come up with big plays when needed. Stafford was officially questionable for the game with a bruised throwing hand but it didn’t seem to bother him. Afterward he took full blame for the two picks saying they were a result of bad decisions, impatience and also being too aggressive. His 36 completions were the most for any quarterback in the NFL this season.

2. Tight end Eric Ebron had a rough start to the season drawing plenty of boos at Ford Field. But since the bye week he’s played well. Ebron finished with 10 catches for 94 yards. Both of those numbers are career highs for Ebron. He wasn’t perfect he lost a fumble. But overall it was a solid game. “When we get production out of him like that it’s big for our offense,’’ Stafford said.

3. Cornerback Darius Slay made his case yet again to be sent to the Pro Bowl. He  intercepted Jameis Winston for his fifth interception this season. He recovered a fumble in a play that the officials could not get right until a challenge by Caldwell. They got it right in the end. Slay leads the Lions with five interceptions which is career high for a season. His top previously was two in a season three times.

4. Running back Theo Riddick finished with two rushing touchdowns and 93 total yards from scrimmage. The Lions run game was only good for 53 yards but those Riddick touchdown runs of 2 yards in first and 18 yards in third were obviously key. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter mixed it up more and ran it less with just 18 carries. In his second game, Tion Green had five carries for 15 yards. Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington were inactive.

5. Detroit may have won, but it was so close at least in part due to eight penalties for 105 yards. If the Lions had lost this one, the spotlight would have been on these turnovers. Caldwell likes to say when you win you’re not as good as you think and when you lose you’re not as bad. Well these penalties could have been killers. And it wasn’t just the number of penalties it’s that they occurred in key situations. Five of the penalties were on the offensive line including two for T.J. Lang.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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