1. Quarterback Jameis Winston had a DAY.
The start of the game wouldn't have indicated the day Winston was about to have at all. He threw his only interception of the day on the very first drive. No strangers to sudden-change football, the defense was luckily able to erase any damage done, forcing a Lions punt off the extra possession. In fact, the defense would keep Detroit almost entirely out of the first half, allowing just one field goal to slip through after four straight punts.
Winston and the offense would take full advantage, running up the score from that first drive on. Winston followed his mistake with two consecutive touchdown drives, giving him 221 yards passing and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Those 221 yards were the third-most passing yards in a first quarter in the last 40 years behind only Peyton Manning and Jim Kelly. He'd add another score before the half was over and finish the first half with 308 yards through the air, the most he's ever had in an opening half and most by a Bucs quarterback in the first half since at least 1991. All in all, Winston's final stat line was 28-of-42 for 458 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 124.9 passer rating. It was his second-consecutive game of over 450 yards passing, making him the only quarterback in NFL history to do it. It also marked the fourth game of over 400 passing yards of his career, tying him for the franchise record of most games with 400+ yards passing with Ryan Fitzpatrick. His 458 yards rank third for most single-game passing yards in franchise history, besting his performance from last Sunday by two yards. It was his 10th game this season with over 300 passing yards, which though Sunday's 1 p.m. games was the most by any quarterback in the NFL this season. His 4,573 passing yards this season are the most by a Bucs quarterback in one season ever. His 19,201 career passing yards through five seasons are the third most by any quarterback in NFL, behind only Peyton Manning from 1998-2002 and Dan Marino from 1983-1987. His four touchdowns gave him 30 on the year, eclipsing his previously held franchise record of 28 and thereby setting a new Bucs record for most single-season touchdowns.
This was all with an injured thumb on his throwing hand, by the way.
2. Actual takeaways sealed the game.
The defense stepped up in the beginning to help the Bucs to a 21-0 lead at one point. They also finished strong, thanks in part to the first career pick-six for rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting in his hometown. Despite Tampa Bay's first takeaway of the game at the hands of safety Andrew Adams, who picked off David Blough on the first Lions drive of the second half, Detroit wasn't done fighting. The Lions followed up the possession by holding the Bucs to a field goal and answering with a touchdown of their own, pulling within a score at the start of the fourth quarter. They then found themselves driving after getting a stop on the Bucs' offense, threatening to even the score. Enter Murphy-Bunting, who ended up picking off quarterback David Blough, returning the interception 70 yards into the end zone and putting the Bucs up two scores with time winding down.
The Bucs weren't done yet, either. The defense held and forced the Lions to turn the ball over on downs with the help of Ndamukong Suh forcing an incompletion on fourth-and-three. This was after not one but two interceptions were called back, one by Lavonte David by a defensive penalty and another by safety Darian Stewart, which was reversed upon a review. The next drive for the Lions would be the dagger though, as David forced his second fumble of the year and Devin White recovered it, giving him his second fumble recovery of the year. It effectively put the game away as the Bucs won the turnover battle 3-1.
3. During a season with an insane amount of travel, the Bucs emerged as road warriors.
With the win over the Lions, the Bucs won four straight contests and improved their record to .500, winning seven games – something that hasn't been done since 2016 when the Bucs finished 9-7, just narrowly missing the playoffs. But more than that, the game in Detroit signified the last road game of the year for the Bucs. Tampa Bay's final road record in 2019?
To say the 2019 schedule was stacked against them would be an understatement, but against those odds, the Bucs managed a winning record away from Raymond James Stadium. Prior to the season, that was all that Tampa Bay could have hoped for after realizing they'd travel over 20,000 miles in a six-week stretch that included two trips to the west coast and a jaunt overseas to London. I'd venture to say most people would have been happy going .500 on the road. But these Bucs did one better. They started the year off playing two games in four days, the second of which was a primetime contest (their only of the year) against a division rival on Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. The Bucs shocked everyone, winning that game with a last-minute goal line stand to cling to their 20-14 lead. The next road game was in Los Angeles against the defending NFC champions, the Rams, and in a wild, high-scoring and downright fun game that saw Ndamukong Suh score a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery against his former team and the Bucs put up a franchise-best 55 points, the Bucs started their five-game road stretch also with a bang. They finished by winning three straight on the road, ending with a decisive win in Detroit.
The Bucs have the opportunity to finish 9-7 again should they take both of their final games at home.
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 15 matchup against Detroit.