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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Rapid Reaction: Lions 31, Buccaneers 23

The Buccaneers lost to the Lions, 31-23, ending their playoff run


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, 31-23, ending their postseason run at Ford Field. A late-game interception and miscues throughout sealed the club's fate in Motown.

The Bucs' defense forced a quick three-and-out on the Lions' first offensive possession as Calijah Kancey batted down a pass on third down, forcing a punt. On the ensuing drive for the Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield was sacked on second down by Ifeatu Melifonwu for a loss of eight yards. Mayfield was intercepted on the ensuing play by C.J. Gardner-Johnson, which was returned 12 yards to the Tampa Bay 41-yard line. The defense did not allow the Lions to capitalize with seven, as Yaya Diaby and K.J. Britt swarmed David Montgomery for a tackle for loss, setting up fourth and goal and a Michael Badgley 23-yard field goal. The Bucs' following drive culminated in a Chase McLaughlin 43-yard field goal as Chase Edmonds was short of the first. Despite back-to-back explosive plays, including an 18-yard gain by Mike Evans and a 23-yard gain by Trey Palmer down the seam, the Bucs had to settle for three.

Early in the second quarter, the Lions reached the end zone on a nine-yard Josh Reynolds touchdown. Sam LaPorta became the catalyst on the drive, taking advantage of zones with gains of 13 and 15 yards, respectively. Reynolds, who came across the back of the end zone untouched following a blown Bucs' coverage, capped off the Lions' 14-play, 75-yard drive. The Bucs responded with a quick punt after two pitches to Chase Edmonds came short of the sticks and an offensive pass interference penalty set Tampa Bay back.

Sam LaPorta started to head up on the Lions' ensuing drive with in-breaking routes, taking advantage of free releases. However, a drop by Amon-Ra St. Brown on third-and-10 set up a 43-yard punt by Jack Fox. The Bucs were able to build momentum on the following drive, courtesy of a 23-yard gain by Mike Evans on an out-breaking route and a shifty move by Rachaad White post-cut for a 10-yard gain. The drive stalled after the Bucs were unable to convert from third-and-five on a Chris Godwin slant and McLaughlin's 50-yard field goal attempt was no good. The kick hit the left upright and bounced off, keeping it a 10-3 game inside Ford Field.

Bucs' rookie Calijah Kancey stalled the Lions' next drive and forced a punt, sacking Goff for a loss of four yards. He quickly disengaged and bypassed Frank Ragnow with a lethal first-step and cross-chop maneuver that collapsed the pocket on third down. Just before halftime, the Bucs got into a rhythm. Mike Evans dialed up a nasty stutter-step release off the line and Cam Sutton bit. Evans gained outside leverage and Mayfield hit him in stride for a 29-yard gain. That play set up a Cade Otton two-yard touchdown, making it a tied game at 10.

Coming out of the half, a nine-yard sack of Mayfield by Aidan Hutchinson on third down halted the Bucs' drive. On the Lions' next drive, a 25-yard gain by Josh Reynolds down the seam was nullified by a David Montgomery chop block penalty, which set up third-and-17 and an ensuing punt. Tampa Bay followed suit with a quick three-and-out following a deep shot to Evans on third down that went incomplete.

The Lions got back on the scoreboard late in the third quarter as Josh Reynolds ran it up the middle one-yard to give the home team a 17-10 lead. A 29-yard gain for tight end Brock Wright to the Bucs' 26-yard line and subsequent 11-yard gain for St. Brown set up the score. After two forced incompletions, the Lions went for it on fourth-and-one, capitalizing with a Reynolds one-yard touchdown rush.

The Buccaneers responded with a touchdown of their own. Cade Otton showcased his durability and physicality on the drive, posting three-consecutive catches of nine, 13 and 27 yards. He became Mayfield's go-to target, who faced duress in the pocket and managed to get off incredible side-angle shots. The seven-play, 75-yard drive culminated in a 12-yard Rachaad White touchdown. Detroit brought a blitz and Tampa Bay exploited with a swing pass to White, who took it to the house. The Lions then drove 75 yards on five plays (1:57), resulting in a 31-yard Jahmyr Gibbs score early in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay was then forced to punt following a quick three-and-out at their own 31-yard line, as White was short of the first on a screen pass.

On the ensuing drive for Detroit, Goff found a wide-open Jameson Williams for a 24-yard gain. Lavonte David notched a sack on third down to set up third-and-15 but the Lions were able to convert with a pass to St. Brown. The Lions capped off the 10-play drive with a St. Brown nine-yard touchdown, extending their lead 31-17. On the drive, Goff went 7-of-7 for 90 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs answered with a comeback bid that culminated in a Mike Evans 16-yard touchdown. A 17-yard gain by Chris Godwin helped seal the scoring play. Evans made a contested grab, boxing out the defender in the end zone. The Bucs went for a two-point conversion, but the attempt failed following an incompletion to Evans in the back corner of the end zone with tight coverage by Melifonwu, keeping it a 31-23 game.

The Bucs forced a quick punt following a tackle for loss by Lavonte David on David Montgomery and a Goff incompletion to St. Brown. With 1:59 on the clock to score eight points for a tie, Mayfield was intercepted by Derrick Barnes at the Tampa Bay 28-yard line, which sealed the loss.

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