Grading Detroit Lions' loss to Bucs: Secondary gets worse than an F

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions after their 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday at Ford Field:

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford hurt his right ankle on the Lions’ opening drive, leaving Chase Daniel and David Blough to finish the game at quarterback. Predictably, the Lions struggled to move the ball. They did not cross midfield until the fourth quarter, did not score a point on offense and converted 1 of 10 third downs. Daniel was off target on several throws and was lucky to avoid a pick-six when Jason Pierre-Paul dropped an interception just before halftime. Blough threw an interception on an underthrown pass in the fourth quarter. Combined, they finished 19 of 28 for 135 yards. Grade: F

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Running backs

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White during the second half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White during the second half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.

D’Andre Swift is far and away the Lions’ best running back, but he has had glaring issues with ball security this season. Swift dropped the winning touchdown pass in Week 1, and he lost his second fumble in as many weeks Saturday. Swift did have a nice cutback on Jamel Dean on a 14-yard run. He finished with a team-high 70 yards from scrimmage as the running backs were the lone semi-bright spot on offense. Adrian Peterson played sparingly, and Kerryon Johnson had a nice third-down blitz pickup early, then gave up a sack to William Gholston on a third-quarter play when Daniel held the ball too long. Grade: D

Wide receivers/tight ends

I’m not sure how much blame the receivers deserve for the Lions' paltry 152-yard passing day, but they did not do much to help Daniel and Blough. Mohamed Sanu dropped a potential third-down conversion near the sideline. and no receiver had a gain longer than 20 yards. The Lions were so inept passing that Danny Amendola finished with team-highs of five catches and 37 yards. Grade: F

Offensive line

Detroit Lions' Joe Dahl blocks Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ndamukong Suh during the first half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions' Joe Dahl blocks Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ndamukong Suh during the first half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.

The Lions had a number of protection breakdowns that contributed to their offensive struggles. Their second offensive series ended on a sack when Joe Dahl snapped the ball prematurely, and they struggled to identify linebacker Devin White (one sack, three quarterback hits) in the blitz game all day. Halapoulivaati Vaitai allowed a late sack by Anthony Nelson, Taylor Decker was called for three false start penalties (one when the Lions lined up to go for a fourth-and-1), and Jonah Jackson had a blindside block penalty. Oday Aboushi made a nice pulling block on Peterson’s 9-yard run, but got beat by Shaq Barrett two plays later when Peterson was thrown for a 4-yard loss. Grade: F

Defensive line

Everson Griffen had a costly offsides penalty on the opening series, when the Lions nearly got off the field with a Jahlani Tavai sack but ended up allowing a touchdown. Austin Bryant also had a drive-extending penalty in the fourth quarter. Griffen beat Tristan Wirfs for a sack and had another pressure on a third-and-13 incompletion, and Romeo Okwara had his ninth sack of the season when he beat Josh Wells off the edge to swat the ball loose from Blaine Gabbert. Overall, the Lions made life too easy for Gabbert and Tom Brady, who had a combined 151.9 passer rating. Grade: F

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Linebackers

The Lions’ linebackers were so bad that third-string Bucs running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn had three consecutive plays where he gained about 9 yards before a defender laid a hand on him. Tackling was an issue, especially for Tavai, who could not stop Leonard Fournette twice in the open field on short passes on a second-quarter touchdown drive. Jarrad Davis got stuck on a block after he was late reacting to Fournette’s 4-yard touchdown run, and Reggie Ragland missed a sack when Brady converted a fourth-and-4 pass to Antonio Brown. One bright spot: Julian Okwara tossed Tanner Hudson aside to stop Vaughn for a loss in the second half. Grade: F

Defensive backs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans catches a touchdown pass against Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Coleman during the first half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans catches a touchdown pass against Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Coleman during the first half Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.

As bad as the Lions’ front seven was, their secondary was worse. Tampa had 10 pass plays of 20 or more yards, including a 33-yard gain on the opening series when Darryl Roberts slipped. Duron Harmon was beat on a 47-yard pass on the second series and took a bad angle on a bubble screen that went for 29 yards, and Roberts looked lost on Gabbert’s touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Tramaine Brock saw extensive time in place of Roberts and had his own struggles, including a pass interference penalty on Evans in the fourth quarter. Even when the Lions had decent coverage, like Justin Coleman did on Antonio Brown’s touchdown and Tracy Walker did on Rob Gronkowski’s touchdown, the Bucs still made big plays. Grade: F-minus

Special teams

Jamal Agnew was the Lions’ best player Saturday. He scored on a 74-yard punt return touchdown after getting stopped by kickers on long returns each of the past two weeks, and he made two special teams tackles, including one in the second quarter after a bouncing Jack Fox punt. Fox’s first punt sailed to the back of the end zone, but he dropped five of his eight punts inside the 20. Mike Ford did have a silly taunting penalty after Agnew’s touchdown, with the Lions down 33 points, and Hunter Bryant was called for an illegal block on a third quarter kick return. Grade: B-plus

Coaching

Detroit Lions receivers coach Robert Prince was the interim head coach vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions receivers coach Robert Prince was the interim head coach vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.

The Lions played under incredibly difficult circumstances as five coaches spent the day in quarantine because of COVID-19 protocols. That left the Lions operating with first-time play callers on both sides of the ball, and an interim to the interim head coach in Robert Prince. They did not have any substitution issues or problems with clock management. That being said, the rest of the game went horrible for the Lions, who might have given up 70 points had the Bucs kept Brady in the game. This was a burn-the-tape performance for just about everyone involved. Grade: F

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Grading Detroit Lions' loss to Bucs: Secondary gets worse than an F