| The Detroit News
Detroit — In a season filled with lows, this was rock bottom.
After falling behind 40 points early in the third quarter, the Detroit Lions did just enough to stave off the worst loss in franchise history. But that was the only consolation in the 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.
Quarterback Tom Brady, playing in his 300th career game, was nearly flawless in the opening half before giving way to backup Blaine Gabbert to start the third quarter. Brady completed 22 of his 27 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as Tampa Bay built a 34-0 lead at the break.
“We’re an explosive football team,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “When we can keep Tom standing, he’s going to deliver for us.”
It was the third time in his 20-year career Brady posted a perfect passer rating and the first in a decade, when he did it against the Lions on Thanksgiving day in 2010.
The Lions entered the day down five coaches due to COVID-19 quarantines, including interim head coach Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, and looked every bit like a team that had two first-time play-callers running the offense and defense.
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” interim head coach Robert Prince said. “We had our team, they had their team, and they outperformed us today.”
To make matters worse, the Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to an ankle injury on the team’s first possession, a death blow to a lineup already down eight offensive and defensive starters entering the day.
Tampa Bay’s path to victory started with the coin toss. And after defensive end Everson Griffen’s offside penalty negated what would have been an opening-drive-ending sack for the Lions, Brady made the Lions pay with a pair of 33-yard completions, the second to tight end Rob Gronkowski resulting in a touchdown.
“I’ve got to be smarter and watch the ball and listen to the cadence,” Griffen said. “I thought I was pretty good, but I guess I jumped offside. So yeah, if we were able to get 3-and-out, maybe we could have had a different type of game, but they came out firing.”
Stafford got the Lions to midfield before rolling his ankle on the ensuing possession. His final throw, a 2-yard toss to Danny Amendola, came up a yard short of the first-down marker, leading to a punt.
Brady and the Buccaneers needed four plays to extend their early advantage. The quarterback connected with Chris Godwin for a 47-yard gain down the middle, setting up a 27-yard touchdown toss to Mike Evans that put Tampa Bay up, 13-0.
The sides exchanged punts before Tampa Bay’s offense continued to pour it on. Moving effortlessly down the field for a nine-play, 66-yard touchdown possession, running back Leonard Fournette finished it off with a 4-yard run.
Brady added two more touchdown passes before the half, hooking up with Godwin for a 7-yard score and Antonio Brown (Central Michigan) from 12 yards out with a little more than two minutes remaining in the half.
“I just think that we weren’t good enough, starting with me,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “I didn’t really do my job as a backup should do — come in and move the ball down the field. I think that converting one-of-10 third downs, that’s probably one of them, not staying on the field.”
Things only got worse for the Lions to begin the third quarter. Even though they got the ball to start the half, the Buccaneers needed just two plays to get back in the end zone.
Rookie running back D’Andre Swift lost a fumble to start the quarter before Gabbert entered the contest and immediately found Gronkowski for a 25-yard touchdown. Kicker Ryan Succop missed his second extra point, leaving the Lions’ deficit at 40.
Detroit’s offense continued to sputter, but the team managed to end Tampa Bay’s shutout bid when return man Jamal Agnew brought a punt back 74 yards in the third quarter.
“For some reason, the last month or so, we’ve been getting more and more opportunities,” Agnew said. “I keep telling my teammates, ‘You know, let’s block, let’s block it up.’ They work their butts off because you never know when we’re going to get the opportunity and it came. I mean, unfortunately, we were down 40 to nothing, but we’re still trying to make an impact, make plays on special teams. I’m just happy I got to make that play for the team and give us a little bit of juice.”
But the Buccaneers quickly responded, pushing their advantage back to 40 with a four-play, 73-yard scoring drive.
After starting the series with an incompletion, Gabbert scrambled for 16 yards followed by easy completions to Tyler Johnson for 35 yards and Evans for a 22-yard score.
The Buccaneers finished the game with 588 yards of total offense, the most the Lions have allowed in a regulation game in franchise history.
Tampa Bay moved to 10-5 with the victory, clinching the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2007 in the process. The Lions, losers of three straight, fell to 5-10 on the year.
The 588 yards the Lions allowed Saturday were the most in a regulation game and the second most ever (*-overtime).
1. *Washington, 1990: 676 yards (194 rush, 482 pass)
2. Tampa Bay, 2020: 588 yards (144 rush, 477 pass)
3. Kansas City, 1990: 566 yards (310 pass, 256 rush)
4. San Francisco, 1993: 565 yards (172 pass, 393 rush)
T5. Dallas, 1985: 554 yards (102 pass, 452 rush)
T5. Philadelphia, 2007: 554 yards (173 pass, 381 rush)