Bucs face Lions with long-awaited playoff berth on line
Tom Brady’s arrival led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to believe their long playoff drought might end this season.
That dream could come to fruition as early as Saturday, when the Bucs visit Detroit.
A victory would clinch a playoff berth with one more game to go. So would a Chicago loss or tie to Jacksonville.
The Bucs (9-5) are also still in the running for an NFC South Division title. While the Bucs trail the Saints (10-4) by a game, if the teams finished tied, the Saints would win the tiebreaker since they beat Tampa Bay twice in the regular season.
The last time the Bucs reached the postseason was 2007, when they lost to the New York Giants in the wild-card round.
“I call them hat and T-shirt games,” coach Bruce Arians said. “This is a hat and T-shirt game. You get a hat and a T-shirt when you’re in the playoffs. It’s a great feeling for these guys. That was the goal this year — it was to get in The Dance and anything can happen once you’re in there. But get ourselves in The Dance and we have that opportunity on (Saturday).”
A Brady-fueled comeback on Sunday put the Bucs on the brink of a postseason berth. Tampa Bay trailed Atlanta 17-0 at halftime but roared back for a 31-27 triumph. Brady threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns.
He needs 114 passing yards on Saturday to reach the 4,000-yard mark for the season. Brady will be making his 300th career regular-season appearance.
With Ronald Jones placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and also recovering from finger surgery, Leonard Fournette served as the main running back against the Falcons. He rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.
“I thought it was fine,” Arians said of the running game. “When we wanted to run, we were successful. We pounded it in twice at the goal line and ran out the clock at the end of the game. In between, it was hit or miss. Just enough to keep the play action really good.”
The pass defense was subpar, as it allowed 332 yards. The Bucs also failed to force a turnover.
“Our defense needs to reevaluate themselves a little bit and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing and what we’re capable of doing,” Arians said.
The Lions (5-9) have allowed 30 or more points in each of their last four games. Their decimated defense was gouged for 463 yards in a 46-25 loss to Carolina on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford played despite a rib injury and threw for 252 yards and a touchdown before he was replaced late in the game by Chase Daniel.
“He was sore coming out of the game. He did take a couple of hits in that game,” interim coach Darrell Bevell said. “He’s as tough as they come, tough as nails.”
The Lions are out of the playoff picture, but Stafford isn’t interested in sitting out the last two games if he feels he can play.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think he’ll let that happen,” Bevell said. “These guys are true competitors. There’s a sense of pride that you need to be there, you want to be there for your teammates.”
Detroit was forced to close its practice facility on Tuesday after two members of the organization tested positive for the coronavirus. Bevell isn’t sure how much the team will be allowed to practice this week.
“Just got to play that by ear,” he said.
–Field Level Media