| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions’ Chase Daniel on his play after Matthew Stafford injury
Detroit Lions QB Chase Daniel talks Dec. 26, 2020, after the team was blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 47-7.
They started the day with their third head coach of the season and ended it with their third quarterback, and in between the Detroit Lions suffered a beatdown for the ages —one that was nowhere near as close as even the lopsided 47-7 final would indicate.
Tom Brady completed 22 of 27 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran roughshod over a Lions team playing without five coaches because of COVID-19 protocols, five defensive starters because of injury, and without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford after he suffered an ankle injury early in the first quarter.
“We got our butts kicked today, and it’s no fun,” said quarterback Chase Daniel, who played most of the game in Stafford’s absence. “I feel for (the coaches) a little bit. I wish we could’ve, offensively at least, come out and helped them out a little bit, but we weren’t able to.”
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Stafford hurt his right ankle on the third play of game, when he rolled it awkwardly trying to backpedal away from blitzing Bucs linebacker Devin White, and spent most of the rest of the game watching Brady and the Bucs destroy the Lions’ shorthanded defense.
Brady led five touchdown drives in six first-half series and posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 before mercifully giving way to Blaine Gabbert at the start of the third quarter.
The Bucs (10-5) set franchise records for points (34), total yards (410) and passing yards (341) in a first half, while the Lions (5-10) spent the afternoon spinning their wheels on both sides of the ball.
With Daniel and David Blough playing in place of Stafford, and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan calling plays for sidelined interim head coach Darrell Bevell, the Lions went 1-for-10 on third downs, did not cross midfield on offense until 14:16 remained in the game, and scored their only points on a 74-yard punt return by Jamal Agnew in the third quarter.
“I’ve been beaten like this before, very few in between, and it’s never a fun feeling,” Daniel said. “It’s what we do for a living. It’s a game, but it’s what we do for a living. It’s our pride on the line. We got our pride crushed today.”
As inept as the Lions were offensively, they were even worse on defense.
Brady might have challenged Norm Van Brocklin’s single-game passing record of 554 yards had he been allowed to play even one more quarter, and Gabbert, who had one pass attempt since the start of the 2019 season, led two third-quarter touchdown drives before Bucs coach Bruce Arians took his foot off the gas.
Gabbert threw his first touchdown pass 10 seconds into the second half, one play after D’Andre Swift lost a fumble, and finished 8-for-14 passing for 133 yards as Tampa Bay outgained the Lions, 588 yards to 186, to clinch its first playoff berth since 2007.
“A loss like this is terrible,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “They came out, they played well, they have weapons, Tom Brady played great. Hats off to him. We’ve just got to keep on fighting like we did.”
The Lions have lost three straight games and five of their past six, and enter next week’s finale against the Minnesota Vikings with the look of a team that simply wants the season to end.
Bevell, one of five Lions coaches deemed a high-risk close contact to a confirmed COVID positive, is expected to exit his five-day quarantine Sunday and be back on the sideline next week.
He and fellow quarantined assistants defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, linebackers coach Ty McKenzie and secondary coach Steve Gregory took part in game-planning for the week, but were not allowed to have contact with the team or their fill-in coaches once the game started.
Wide receivers coach Robert Prince served as head coach Saturday, Ryan called offensive plays from the booth, and Evan Rothstein, a coaching assistant who has worked primarily on special projects and analytics during his nine seasons in Detroit, called defensive plays. Neither Ryan nor Rothstein had called plays at any stop in their careers.
Rothstein, making his way through the press box before kickoff, gave a thumbs up to a reporter when asked if he was ready and said, “Another day at work.”
Rothstein and the Lions nearly got off the field with a three-and-out on the game’s first series, but Griffen jumped offsides to nullify a Jahlani Tavai sack; Brady threw his first touchdown pass four plays later to Rob Gronkowski.
“There’s no doubt their discipline — or lack thereof — helped us tremendously,” Arians said. “It was exactly what we needed.”
Stafford, playing with rib and right thumb injuries, stayed in for one play after injuring his ankle, but left after a short pass to Danny Amendola forced a Lions punt and spent the next few minutes meeting with doctors and trainers on the Lions sideline.
Unable to put weight on his right foot, Stafford hopped on his left leg to the tunnel behind the Lions bench as Brady was throwing his second touchdown pass of the game to Mike Evans for a 13-0 lead.
Stafford returned to the Lions sideline late in the first half with his right foot heavily taped, walked gingerly to midfield to meet Brady after the game, and now awaits a new head coach-general manager tandem that will decide his future in Detroit.
Daniel finished 13-for-18 passing for 86 yards, while Blough, playing most of the fourth quarter, was 6-for-10 for 49 yards with one interception for the Lions.
Evans had 10 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs, who also got two touchdowns from Gronkowski and one each from Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette and Chris Godwin.
“I think all across the board, no one feels sorry for us, nobody cares that we’re down coaches or whatever,” Blough said. “It’s the situation we’re in. We’re supposed to go out there and produce, so it’s frustrating, the performance we put on display, but we keep working. You go back to work and you keep learning. That’s all you can do in this game and in this league.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.