This has not been a half to remember for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Although they’re responsible for the team’s only touchdown, they’ve also allowed 324 total yards to the Detroit Lions and are fortunate to only be trailing 20-13 at halftime.
Detroit took the opening kickoff and went 76 yards on 11 plays, but stalled out near the end zone when Matthew Stafford threw incomplete on 3rd and 2 at the Bucs’ 4-yard line. Jason Hanson kicked a short field goal for the first points of the game. The Bucs got a 78-yard kickoff return from Sammie Stroughter, but couldn’t move the ball and settled for a Connor Barth field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
Tampa Bay got their only touchdown on an interception return by Aqib Talib, after Stafford’s pass for Tony Scheffler in the left flat bounced off his hand and into Talib’s arms. (He was then flagged for excessive celebration after high-stepping nearly the entire 28 yards of the return and then posing with teammates.)
From there it was all downhill for the Bucs. The Lions drove down for another field goal to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 10-6, then scored touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second quarter. Stafford has hit 18 of 25 passes for 269 yards and two scores. The first came on a 4th and 3 from the Bucs’ 36-yard line, when Calvin Johnson beat Talib with a stop and go move and Stafford lofted the ball just over Talib’s outstretched arm. Sean Jones was late providing help over the top, and Johnson strolled into the end zone. On the next drive, the Lions went 84 yards against a tired and off-balance Bucs defense, finishing the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Scheffler. There were four Tampa Bay defenders around Scheffler, but none of them touched him as he caught the low pass and rolled into the end zone. Detroit held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half, and with Tampa Bay offering no pass rush, Stafford hit the Bucs repeatedly in the seams of their zone defense.
The Bucs managed to mount a last-minute drive to get in field goal range, and Barth’s second field goal cut the lead to 20-13 as time expired. Despite that late effort, Tampa Bay has just 108 yards of offense, and just 14 yards rushing on six attempts. Josh Freeman is under pressure from the Detroit defense and has completed 10 of 16 passes for only 94 yards, with an interception.
Tampa Bay does get the ball to start the second half, and despite their awful first 30 minutes, they are still in the game.