Buccaneers vs. Lions: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 24-21 Win Against Detroit
The Buccaneers moved to 3-8 on the season, a disappointing record for a team showing plenty of promise in recent weeks.
In a season with no hopes for playoff bids or championship rings, the best the Buccaneers can hope for are glimpses into what their future could be in a season when they don't lose eight straight games.
So what did the Buccaneers learn in their road victory today about the team they've constructed? Here are some of the things I take away from the win, starting with the play of the quarterback for Tampa Bay.
Mike Glennon Gaining Confidence
Mike Glennon started off his career with a string of games plagued with interceptions, fumbles and mistakes. But with a half-season under his belt, the NC State product is looking much more comfortable under center.
Glennon finished Sunday's game with 14 completions on 21 attempts for 247 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.
He took a bad sack late in the game, and otherwise he seemed tentative at times. But he commanded the offense and limited mistakes, which kept his team in the game while his defense collected Matthew Stafford interceptions.
Three of the last four games for Glennon have been impressive, especially considering that two of them came on the road against winning teams in Seattle and Detroit. He's trending upwards, which is great news for the Buccaneers, who need a quarterback for the future.
Tim Wright Is a Weapon at Tight End
Mike Glennon has been a surprise at quarterback for the Buccaneers this season, but another rookie on offense has been an unheralded star.
Tight end Tim Wright had a great game on Sunday, hauling in eight of the 14 completed passes Mike Glennon threw and helping to move the chains.
Wright converted to tight end after playing wide receiver in college at Rutgers. Last month in an interview with Rick Brown of The Ledger, Wright admitted he's still learning the details of being an NFL tight end.
"I've come a long way from playing tight end to learning how to block guys in the NFL," said Wright, and he continues to progress as a receiver and even as a blocker.
Sunday's game was another example of how Wright's receiving skills and size can cause matchup nightmares for linebackers and defensive backs. He could be a very valuable asset for the Buccaneers in the future as he continues to learn how to play tight end in the NFL.
Running Game Isn’t Foolproof
Bobby Rainey was a star for the Buccaneers in their Week 11 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The waiver-wire pickup scored three touchdowns in the victory.
On Sunday against Detroit, he didn't have the same sort of impact.
Rainey and his fellow backs were bottled up at Ford Field. Buccaneer running backs combined for 19 carries totaling 38 yards and no scores.
The offensive line couldn't open up any room to run, and when it did, it was usually due to a holding penalty which negated the play.
The Tampa Bay offense remained committed to the run and picked up a key first down late in the game on the ground. But there were no game-changing performances from Tampa Bay tailbacks on Sunday against Detroit.
Mistakes Almost Cost the Buccaneers
Tampa Bay committed multiple encroachment penalties which led to first downs, fielded a punt inside its own 5-yard line which was not returned for a big gain, and failed to score on two drives which began inside the Detroit 40-yard line in the fourth quarter.
And despite all of those mistakes, they still managed to win the game.
Luckily for Tampa Bay, the Lions made more mistakes on the day, racking up penalties and turnovers of their own to overshadow the mistakes made by Tampa Bay.
Still, nine penalties for the Buccaneers should concern head coach Greg Schiano, who cannot afford to lose any more football games on account of his team's mental lapses.
All-Pro Caliber Defenders Leading the Way
Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David showed why they should be in the discussion for All-Pro nominations this season with the way they played against the Lions on Sunday.
McCoy, the talented 3-technique tackle, was a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line all game. He's only credited with three tackles on the stat sheet, but his impact was felt on most passing plays, as you can see in the photo above.
The Buccaneers also received strong contributions from Lavonte David, whose solid tackling stopped Detroit runners from gaining yards and getting into the secondary. He also chipped in with an athletic diving interception on a tipped pass, and he showed great hustle on a chase-down tackle and forced fumble against Nate Burleson.
Both of these members of the Tampa Bay front seven should be in the discussion as the best in the league at their positions. It's unfortunate that they're stuck on a 3-8 team.
Able to Cope Without Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis exited Sunday's game at halftime with a groin injury, according to the Fox broadcast team. Shortly after his departure, the Lions targeted the now open Calvin Johnson for a few big plays.
But those big plays would evaporate. The remaining defensive backs for the Buccaneers adjusted to their situation and proceeded to create turnovers and get key stops against the Detroit passing game.
Keith Tandy, despite being well out of position on a deep throw to Calvin Johnson earlier in the game, found himself in the right spot for an interception of an errant throw from Matthew Stafford at a key moment in the second half.
And Kelcie McCray, a reserve safety who had barely seen the field prior to Sunday's contest, came up with a perfect hit on Calvin Johnson to knock away the football into the hands of Johnthan Banks for a game-sealing interception.
Johnson complimented the hit after the game, saying McCray "got a good hit on me," according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
The fact that the Tampa Bay defense was able to survive without Darrelle Revis shows there are still some capable players outside of "Revis Island," and that they're ready to be taken seriously.
Greg Schiano's Team Is Proving It Can Win Close Games
Just a month ago, Greg Schiano had never won an NFL game decided by fewer than six points.
Since then, he's turned around his 0-8 Buccaneer team thanks to three straight wins, two of which came with three-point margins.
Schiano received a vote of confidence from the the owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the game, according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. Cummings also reported that co-chairman Joel Glazer told him that the owners never doubted his grip on the locker room.
Schiano has lost far too many football games to consider his job safe. But he has proven he's capable of winning, and winning close games.
After a win against Miami two weeks ago which was decided by a defensive stand, and then Sunday's game against Detroit which was decided by a defensive stand, Schiano is showing his team hasn't quit on him and doesn't quit on the field.
That's highly encouraging for a franchise that seemed to be on its way to the worst record in the NFL.
Still Lacking an Identity, but Winning
The Buccaneers defeated the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago despite a poor performance from quarterback Mike Glennon. They used good defense and timely rushing to emerge victorious.
Against the Atlanta Falcons a week later, it was the running game that took over, and an efficient Mike Glennon who controlled the game and put the Falcons away easily.
But against the Lions on Sunday, the Buccaneer offense was largely ineffective, and it was the opportunistic defense that helped seal the win.
That's a poor day at the office for an offense which had rushed for over 140 yards in three straight games and yet failed to eclipse 40 yards against Detroit.
The Buccaneers don't really have a firm identity yet. They're just now learning how to win with the players they have. But where Tampa Bay goes from here will be determined by how often it can find a new way to win, or if it can develop a repeatable formula to win football games.
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