DETROIT -- When asked about the losing culture that has characterized much of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' past decade, coach Bruce Arians proclaimed this week, “We ain’t accepting this s--- anymore.” Against the Detroit Lions, the Bucs showed that yes, they may indeed be in the midst of a culture overhaul, winning 38-17 for their fourth-straight to improve to 7-7. This marks just the second time in the past 10 years that the Bucs have been at or above .500 with two weeks remaining in the season.
With the playoffs no longer in sight, the Bucs’ goal has been to win out and use this year as a springboard for 2020. But they’re still searching for a signature win during this stretch, with next week’s home game against the Houston Texans providing the perfect measuring stick to gauge how far they’ve come in Arians’ first season. Houston is the only team of the Bucs’ final six opponents with a winning record. But they may have to do it without not only Mike Evans but also Chris Godwin, who left the game with a hamstring injury, as did Scotty Miller.
QB breakdown: With a broken thumb and without Evans and left tackle Donovan Smith, quarterback Jameis Winston carved up the Lions’ defense, throwing for over 400 yards for just the fourth time in his career. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 458 yards and four touchdowns. The only issue for Winston was an interception on the opening drive -- the fifth time this season he’s done that, which is the most in the NFL.
Troubling trend: While the Bucs managed to pull off the win, they were up 21 points in the third quarter before the defense surrendered two second-half touchdowns to backup quarterback David Blough.
Second-half letdowns have been an issue throughout the year, with the Bucs allowing New York Giants rookie David Jones to erase an 18-point deficit in Week 3 and allowing the Tennessee Titans to come back in the fourth quarter in Week 8. Against the Lions, the Bucs were hurt not only with the loss of Jordan Whitehead to a hamstring injury, but by the fact that they couldn’t establish a consistent run game.
Pivotal play: With the Lions trailing 24-17 in the fourth quarter, kicker Matt Gay missed a 54-yard field goal, with the ball hitting the left upright and Detroit getting the ball midfield. On second-and-13, after a sack from Ndamukong Suh and with 5:23 to go, rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Blough at the Tampa Bay 30 on a pass intended for Danny Amendola, returning it 70 yards for a touchdown.
Buy this breakout performance: Perriman, the son of former Lions great Brett Perriman, had his first career three-touchdown performance. In Weeks 1-11 this season, Winston was just 10 of 30 (33.3%) for 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception when targeting Perriman. In Weeks 12-15, the two have gone 14 of 18 (77.7%) for 314 yards, four touchdowns and an INT. If Godwin and Scotty Miller, who also suffered a hamstring injury, can’t go next week, Perriman will be the “it” guy.