DETROIT, Mich. (WFLA) – UPDATE: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers win 38-17 against the Detriot Lions.
The last time the Buccaneers won four games in a row was the 2016 season.
ORIGINAL: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in search of their fourth consecutive victory when they face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field this afternoon at 1:00 pm. Not only would a win keep a streak going, it would return the Bucs to a .500 record for the first time since they were 2-2 in September. The Lions are in a late-season tailspin riding six straight losses and dropping nine of their last ten games.
Despite rallying from a 14-point deficit a week ago to win 38-35 over the Indianapolis Colts, the Bucs are dealing with significant injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jameis Winston injured his throwing hand in the game, reported as a fracture but was able to progress to throwing a football by the end of the week at practice. Wide receiver Mike Evans hurt his hamstring on a 61-yard touchdown catch. He will not play today. And a big question mark hangs over left tackle Donovan Smith, who left last week’s game briefly with a knee and ankle injury.
Here are three things to watch today in chilly Detroit:
Will Winston’s hand hold up?
In the Bucs final drive of the first half against the Colts, quarterback Jameis Winston threw a pass and his hand suffered a collision with the arm and helmet of defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad. The pain was not an issue unitl Winston tried to grip a football before the start of the 3rd quarter. After missing one series, Winston was treated and returned to the game to engineer a 2nd half comeback.
Despite finishing the game with a career-high 456 passing yards and four touchdown passes, Winston was watched closely during the week. He progressed from a throwing motion on Wednesday, to throwing a tennis ball on Thursday, finally passing with a football on Friday. He will hit the field, confident in his ability to throw the ball but the Lions will apply as much pressure as they can, hoping to force inaccurate throws. Winston will be without one of his main weapons in the passing game, with wide receiver Mike Evans on the sideline. Fellow wide receiver Justin Watson will be inserted in his place and will need to make the most of his targets, forcing the Lions to cover tighter instead of focusing solely on Chris Godwin.
Elementary, my dear Watson
Wide receiver Justin Watson enjoyed a coming out party in the win over the Colts, hauling in his first career touchdown pass and also returning punts in the place of injured T.J. Logan. He will need to be big again, now filling in those two roles the rest of the way in the Bucs final three games.
Watson had one catch entering the Colts game. He finished the day with five of them for 59 yards. He will be helped by the increasing presence of wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Colts game. Perriman’s workload has increased as his connection with Jameis Winston has taken off. Last week, he finished with 70 yards receiving coming off a career-high 87-yard day in the week prior.
At just over 276 yards passing allowed per game, the Lions will present opportunities for the Bucs passing attack to get some momentum. If Winston is pressured, then the running backs and tight ends could be in store for a busy day of screens and short routes.
The next step for a young defense
Without question, one of the biggest factors in the Bucs revival in the second half of the season is the play of the defensive backs. Safety Mike Edwards recovered a fumble in the Colts game at a critical moment during the Bucs comeback. The Bucs pressure up front deserves equal credit for the improved play in the backfield but one piece will be missing today with defensive lineman Beau Allen suffering an injured ankle at practice.
The front seven for the Bucs has grown into a game-planning nightmare with the combination of middle linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White running the show. Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett is now just one quarterback sack away from tying Warren Sapp’s franchise record for sacks in one season with 16.5.
The Lions have been forced into throwing the football a lot but still have a formidable passing attack that averages just over 263 yards per game. Lions rookie quarterback David Blough has started the previous two games throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass on Thanksgiving Day. His two performances have been met with mixed results however with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. Blough was also sacked five times during last week’s 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.