Lions eliminate Bucs from playoffs

by Gary Shelton on January 22, 2024

in general

Mayfield threw for 349 yards./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

Long after the world expected it, the clock finally ran out on the Tampa Bay Bucs Sunday afternoon.

No more practices. No more games. 

For the Bucs, all that remain is a collection of plays that went the wrong way.

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Evans recovered for 147 yards.TIM WIRT

— There was the ball that bounced off the hands of Mike Evans.

— There was Baker Mayfield’s second interception, the one that blew out the candle for the Bucs.

— There was the field goal that doinked off the upright by Chase McLaughlin.

It all contributed to a 31-23 loss in the NFL division game. For the Bucs, it was a season of ups and downs, with 10 wins and nine losses, that got more interesting at the end. Still, it is disappointing to have another team turn out the lights on you.

— There was Jamel Dean’s dropped interception.

— There was Rachaad White’s whiff on a sack.

— There was Carlton Davis’ illegal-use-of-hands penalty.

Twice, the Bucs came back to tie the game (at 10 and at 17), but the Lions never trailed. The Bucs’ secondary gave up 267 yards to Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff  (who hit 30 of 43 passes).

— There was Zion McCollum, getting burned in the secondary.

— There was Antonio Winfield, getting fooled on a cut by Jahmyr Gibbs.

— There was the pass protection, which gave up four sacks (three where a rusher was unblocked.)

You can go on. The Bucs simply weren’t efficient enough to win. They struggled to get off the field, and they struggled to mount enough offense.

Mayfield did throw for 349 yards and three scores. Evans caught eight passes for 147 yards.

It was early in the game when Mayfield threw across the middle to Evans. The ball bounced off of his hands, however, and was intercepted by the Lions’ C.J. Gardner-Johnson. That set up a Lions’ field goal.

The Bucs got a field goal of their own on their next drive, but the Lions came back with a touchdown on a pass to uncovered Josh Reynolds.

Tampa Bay finally put a drive together late in the half, driving 92 yards for a score. Mayfield hit Evans with passes of 27 and 29 yards. He threw to Cade Otton for two yards for the score.

The Bucs gave up a 64-yard drive in the third period, scoring on a fourth-down run.

Tampa Bay scored late in the third period to tie the game at 17-17 when Mayfield threw to Rachaad White for 12 yards.

The Lions scored twice on back-to-back drives in the fourth period to pull away. The Bucs made it closer when Mayfield hit Evans for 16 yards.

It was a defeat that told of the Bucs’ strengths, but also one that showed its shortcomings. The Bucs still need a better secondary, a better offensive line, a better pass rush. It seems as if the team will bring back both coach Todd Bowles and Mayfield, but it needs upgrading elsewhere.

For now, it is done. A season of half-wins, half-losses, half-cheers and half jeers is over.

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