First-half observations: Brady, Bucs eviscerating Stafford-less Lions
The 2020 season is drawing to a close for the Detroit Lions after having been eliminated from playoff contention last week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can secure a playoff spot in the NFC with a win or tie as the two teams clash in Week 16.
In what is likely to be their last game against Tom Brady, the Lions (5-9) trail the Buccaneers (9-5), 34-0.
Here are some key takeaways from the first half of play:
►We might have seen the last of Matthew Stafford in Detroit: Stafford exited the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Detroit only has one game left and there has been a lot of speculation that the Lions will trade or waive the longtime signal-caller before next season. If the injury ends up being serious enough to hold Stafford out of next week’s season finale, he may have donned a Lions uniform for the last time.
►The Lions are literally unrecognizable: Being down at halftime is familiar, but there are many unfamiliar faces in Honolulu blue and silver. Chase Daniel has taken over at quarterback. Wide receivers coach Ron Prince is the interim head coach for interim head coach Darrell Bevell who is sidelined along with four defensive coaches due to COVID-19 protocols. Defensive analyst Evan Rothstein, who has never been a position coach or coordinator in the NFL, is making the defensive play calls.
On top of all that, Detroit came into the game down eight starters, more than a third of their offensive and defensive starters. Center Frank Ragnow’s absence was felt in the first quarter when backup Joe Dahl snapped the ball a little early, surprising Daniel and leading to a sack.
►Bucs start fast, finally: Tampa Bay took its first first-quarter lead since Week 8 when Brady hooked up with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Gronkowski outmuscled a Lions defender and stumbled into the end zone to make it 6-0 for the Buccaneers.
Earlier in the drive, Detroit linebacker Jahlani Tavai got a sack on third down, but Lions defensive lineman Everson Griffen was ruled offside, extending Tampa Bay’s possession.
►Brady in control and breaking records: When Brady hit Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter he became the franchise leader in touchdown throws, surpassing Jameis Winston. After two quarters, Brady is 22-for-27 throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Swift is Detroit’s only bright spot: Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift provided Detroit’s only highlight, a 14-yard run in which he made two quick cuts. Swift has six carries for 31 yards, a 5.2-yard average at halftime.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer