The Detroit Lions are probably not going to have a better chance to win the NFC North than right now. With Aaron Rodgers out, the Green Bay Packers have been pretty bad, losing at home to the Bears and Eagles, losing on the road to the Giants, and managing just a tie at home to the Vikings.
The Lions went on the road to Chicago and got a key win, sweeping that series and securing the tiebreaker. That result had Detroit in the driver’s seat. They have spent the last two weeks crashing the car while on a late night bender.
Detroit had the lead at Pittsburgh before the fake field goal attempt failed and then the defense gave up a long drive to the Steelers in the fourth quarter. A road loss at Pittsburgh, while discouraging, was hardly a horrible outcome.
Losing at home to Tampa Bay, though, is one of those games that you might look back on in six weeks. Detroit lost a game in which they allowed only 10 first downs, and 22 rushing yards. How? Big plays allowed, and turnovers. Glennon only threw 21 passes, but 132 of his 247 passing yards came on two plays: a deep pass to Vincent Jackson to set up the first touchdown, and an 85 yard bomb to Tiquan Underwood to score the final points to take the lead 24-21.
Here’s that touchdown to Underwood that pushed the Bucs back into the lead. Either Louis Delmas or Chris Houston played this one really badly. Houston has his hips turned and is looking for the out cut as Underwood starts to blow past him. Delmas (circled) meanwhile, starts attacking the crossing route in front of him.
Delmas has that route covered, but the ball is going deep, and Houston was not in position to cover the middle of the field.
That was a pretty big play. The rest of them came from Matthew Stafford throwing to Tampa Bay. Stafford ended the day with four interceptions. The first came on a tipped ball in the middle of the field when Detroit was moving into the red zone. Burleson was covered though, and the defensive back just missed the initial interception before it fell to Lavonte David, who made a nice diving grab.
The next one was a crusher. Detroit had a 14-10 lead with a minute remaining in the first half when Stafford tried to get it to Brandon Pettigrew on a delayed release, telegraphed his intentions and threw off his back foot, making the throw end up just behind Pettigrew. Just like that, it was Tampa going into the locker room ahead.
Stafford threw his second interception in the red zone in the third quarter. He tried to hit Calvin Johnson on a deep post, but the safety Keith Tandy stepped in front of it. Compare this to the big Tampa touchdown, and it appears that Stafford thought Tandy was going to jump that intermediate cross by Brandon Pettigrew. He stayed home.
Detroit was up 21-17 at the time, and looking to make it a two score game. Stafford was not happy with the cups providing him with high quality H20 after that one.
The final interception was tough luck. Stafford threw it up under pressure, again looking for Calvin Johnson, and he got it to him on the corner route. The safety popped Johnson just as the ball arrives, and it fell right to Johnthan Banks.
Game over, and now for all the talk of how bad the NFC East has been, the Detroit Lions now find themselves barely holding a lead at 6-5 (due to the tiebreaker over Chicago), and are one more bad day at home against the Packers from giving it all away.