TAMPA — Utter shock and dismay. That’s the summary of the day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had as the Detroit Lions rolled into Raymond James and all but ended any hopes the Buccaneers had for the playoffs. “Are they still in the playoffs?” said Lions center Dominic Raiola, whose younger brother, Donovan, is a backup center with Tampa Bay. “Are they getting ready, making vacation plans now, like us? I hope so.” It seemed like the Bucs came into the game thinking they had already won it, and that showed on the field. On paper the two teams were almost evenly matched and the result was a nearly identical game statisically with a field goal making up the difference.
Josh Freeman got out dueled by Drew Stanton just barely on Sunday as both threw for over 250 yards. Freeman had 251, Stanton 252. Both had a TD and both had ratings in the 90% range. What it literally came down to was a pass interference penalty on Kellen Winslow that nullified what would have been the dagger for the Bucs. Instead a Field Goal was kicked and everything went to Hell in a hand basket for Tampa Bay. It brought back brutal memories of the Dolphins game last year where the Bucs took the lead with under am minute to go and then gave up a 70-plus yard drive to lose the game. The same thing happened on Sunday; the defense could not close the door. They didn’t even buy a lock for the door they simply left it wide open and put it on good faith the Lions wouldn’t come in and steal the game away. If I were you, I wouldn’t hire the Bucs for home security anytime soon.
It wasn’t all the Bucs fault, they were heavily depleted on defense missing key players such as Aqib Talib, who most likely would have kept tabs on Calvin Johnson a lot better than one E.J. Biggers did. Gerald McCoy was also out which would have provided more pressure on Stanton and the absences of Cody Grimm and Quincy Black were very clear. It’s still not an excuse to let a Lions team, albeit a Lions team on the rise but a Lions team nonetheless, torch your secondary and torch it with under a minute to go. Calvin Johnson had probably his best game of the year going for 10 rec. and an outrageous 152 yards. To put that in a fuller perspective, Drew Stanton only threw for 252 yards meaning Johnson had roughly 60.3% of all the yards Stanton threw for.
There were positives to be had in the game and they came in the form of Josh Freeman’s insane athleticism. The 6’6″ QB had an amazing pass in the second quarter where he somehow managed to get a pass off while wearing Ndamukong Suh like a blanket. LaGarrette Blount had a touchdown the very next play where he broke a tackle before galloping 39 yards to the endzone. Unfortunately it was plays like this that gave Bucs fans false hope about the game. Blount did finish the day with yet another 100-yard performance under his belt, plus the one touchdown. “It’s rough to lose a close game like that, to lose a game that we felt like we definitely should have won,” Josh Freeman said. “But it’s not a death blow, I guess, from a mathematical standpoint.” This is true as the Bucs can still make the playoffs as basically nothing changed with the Saints, Packers and Giants all losing as well on Sunday, it just would have been really nice to move up a bit. Thats what also makes this loss sting so much is the fact the Bucs could have easily gained a game on everybody fighting for a Wild Card spot on Sunday, but perhaps it isn’t meant to be. The question I’ve been asking all week is how much of a run could the Bucs make with such a depleted roster and I think we got our answer on Sunday. Yeah the Lions are a good team, but they are not a playoff team and if you can barely hang with the Motor City Kitties, how do you expect to keep pace with the Bears in Chicago, or with the Saints two straight weeks? This team is playoff ready, don’t get me wrong; but this roster isn’t and if there was one absolute strong, yet bitter-sweet positive to come out of Sunday, it was the fact Bucs fans got shown that this just isn’t out year. But next year: watch out, there be pirates on the horizon and they aren’t taking prisoners.