Mistakes Cost Buccaneers in Loss to Lions in NFC Playoffs

Ken Cross

January 23, 2024 at 11:20 am.

Three touchdown drives in the second half helped the Detroit Lions bolt to a 31-17 lead and a solid defensive effort helped them defeat Tampa Bay, 31-23, in the NFC Playoffs on Sunday.

Detroit running back Craig Reynolds scored on a 1-yard run before Jahmyr Gibbs scored from 31 yards out as the Lions led, 24-17 with 13:13 remaining in the game.

Then, Lions QB Jared Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown with a 9-yard touchdown pass to move Detroit into next Sunday’s NFC title game with a match-up against the San Francisco 49ers.

Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield ended the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown throw to running back Rashaad White as he took it into the end zone out of the right flat, and the Bucs tied the game at 17-17 after three quarters.

“We felt like we were in the ball game all the way to the end,” said Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles. “We were down, 17-10, and we came back to 17-17. They got some scores. We came back and scored. All we had to do is get a stop earlier and try to move the ball down the field. Obviously, they won the turnover battle and it was too much to overcome.”

Mayfield threw two interceptions which led to a Detroit field goal and at the end of the game, Mayfield tried to throw over the middle to tight end Cade Otton. Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes picked off the pass on the Bucs’ 28 after Tampa Bay had forced a Lions punt just before the two-minute warning, so the opportunity was still there.

“Two-minute drives like that are where you know you are going to have four downs to use,” said Mayfield.  “It was a bad mistake by me. I know we fought all year and we fought to get to this point. We weren’t supposed to be here by any measure, but we believed in each other and we fought for it.”

The Buccaneers won six out of their last seven games to end the regular season and finish 9-8 and atop the NFC South. Last week’s 32-9 win over Philadelphia left little doubt about the Bucs’ positive position in the playoffs.

“I am proud of the team because of how they fought all year long and the things they dealt with,” said Bowles. “I’m proud of the young guys stepping up and the older players playing above anything they could do. We have to reload and come back next year.”

Wide receiver Mike Evans had eight catches for 147 yards and a score. Evans’ TD catch came late as Mayfield threw the pass high to Evans who went over Lions defensive back Cameron Sutton to pull down the score. It cut Detroit’s lead to 31-23 before the two-point conversion failed.

“This is one of the best teams I have been a part of, especially in being resilient,” noted Evans. “We fought hard all year and nobody batted an eye. We kept playing hard for each other.”

The Buccaneers had proven their positioning and when they went into the locker room, tied at 10-10, it showed the high level of confidence that they had brought onto a tough Lions’ home field.

“We felt like we were in it, going to halftime, an even game,” said Mayfield. “We felt like we were in it up until the last drive. Football is a complex game, but it is also simple. You have to take care of the ball.”

Mayfield was alluding to his two interceptions which were the Buccaneers’ lone mistakes. He posted 28 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions during the season with six scoring tosses and those two picks in the postseason.

“Too many mistakes – coverage mistakes,” said Bowles. “They made some plays. You’ve got to give them credit. They’re a good football team. They have an electric crowd.”