Buccaneers @ Lions
The Lions came into this game with most of their coaching staff on the COVID/restricted list, and it showed. This one was ugly. Early on in this game, we watched rugged man Matthew Stafford gut out likely a litany of injuries in an attempt to push the Lions to a seemingly useless win. Just a drive into the game, an ankle injury led him off the field as he became the first of three quarterbacks in the rotating door for the Lions. On the other side of the token, the Buccaneers rolled behind the seemingly ageless cannon of Tom Brady. Thus we ended up watching the rout of the Lions at the “helm” of those wily Bucs. The final of this game was 47-7, and the lone touchdown that the Lions employed was via a special teams run back. Let’s dive in and see who can help you for your end of season run!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady: 22/27, 348 yards, 4 TDs, 1 Sack
Blaine Gabbert: 9/15, 143 yards, 2 TDs, 1 sack | 2 carries, 15 yards
Tom Brady was timeless in this game. After a quick peppering over the middle of the field to weapons the likes of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the valve was officially opened with a 33-yard touchdown pass over the top to his partner in crime, Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski had a bit of an off and on season, but he has really become a true weapon for almost any touchdown based needs.
We’re now looking at Tom Brady finding his way to end the season as a top-10 overall quarterback, and has finished his last seven games with five 300 plus yard finishes, and no games with less than 2 passing touchdowns. Truly picking it up when fantasy and real-life fantasy owners alike needed him most, 43-year old Brady has shown that almost nothing is truly off-limits for him, and is nearly finished with arguably his best season in half a decade. Gronk spikes for everyone!
GRONK SPIKE ‼️
— PFF (@PFF) December 26, 2020
Leonard Fournette: 9 rushes, 34 yards, 1 TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards
Ke’shawn Vaughn: 15 rushes, 62 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards
LeSean McCoy: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards
There wasn’t much to say about the rushing game in this one, as Ronald Jones was on the injury report for the game and it paved the way for Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn to have their hold on the backfield. Neither shined and while Fournette had a touchdown, Vaughn looked like the superior back, averaging over 4 yards per carry and likely giving the Bucs a bit of an understanding on him being able to be the bell cow if Ronald Jones was to miss any more time at all. The earlier and consistent method of dismantling the Lions in this one was the almighty play-action pass, and Fournette benefited off a short-yardage punch in that sandwiched four passing touchdowns for Brady.
Vaughn looked downright aggressive and much more ready for the game than Fournette, and unlike earlier in the season when we wondered if either player’s fumble or consistency troubles will impact this backfield, we now know that this team will attempt to thrive through the air if Jones is to miss time. They looked very comfortable without a rushing presence today (could also be partly a game-planning situation, but either way, there’s zero value for Fournette if he can’t do more than making a spare point or two while Rojo is away).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Evans: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 181 yards, 2 TDs
Chris Godwin: 9 targets, 5 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 58 yards, 2 TDs
Antonio Brown: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 35 yards, 1 TD
Tyler Johnson: 1 target, 1 reception, 35 yards
Cameron Brate: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards
Tanner Hudson: 1 target, 1 reception, 20 yards
Scotty Miller: 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards
The targets were hot and heavy for the Bucs as Brady attempted passes to 11 different offensive players. Godwin and Evans were the main beneficiaries, and they have simultaneously made Brady look young for the past month-plus. Godwin hit the middle of the field on many slants and curl type routes while Evans was his look to for almost all redzone attempts. Godwin himself was likely to have two touchdowns on the game, but one of his was called back on a double play-action fake that got pulled back for an offensive holding penalty, which then led to an Antonio Brown touchdown on the same drive.
Even when Brady ended up leaving the game for the last few drives, Blaine Gabbert continued on the scorched earth tour, and Evans ended up on the receiving end of a second touchdown pass. You’re looking at one of the most talented offensive teams coming into full bloom right at the end of the season.
Check out an Evans’ bomb drop below.
Most single season TD passes in Bucs history:
Tom Brady – 34 (11 INT)
Jameis Winston – 33 (30 INT)
— PFF (@PFF) December 26, 2020
Matthew Stafford: 2/3, 17 yards
Chase Daniel: 13/18, 86 yards
David Blough: 6/10, 49 yards | 1 carry, 18 yards
The Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks combined for 21 competitions, and even that number seems somewhat high. Matthew Stafford started the game and came up limping after one drive, and the game ended up getting away from Detroit basically from that point on. Chase Daniel did his proverbial “backup” thing, and didn’t necessarily look bad, but also didn’t do anything of note, and most of his passing was very focused on short yardage. As this offense revolves around Stafford it needs a true playmaker like Kenny Golladay, and it’s very apparent without either that this team has absolutely zero identity. Stafford was going early and often to Danny Amendola and actually had some steady rapport, but without Stafford on the field, the Lions dissolved relatively quickly. Daniel is a “JAG”. David Blough is an intriguing “JAG”. Stafford is this team’s identity, but ultimately in this offense, his biggest talent is really making the offense turn the key and startup. Without him, they’re in the driveway calling Triple-A.
D’Andre Swift: 10 carries, 45 yards | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 25 yards
Adrian Peterson: 4 carries, 10 yards
Kerryon Johnson: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards
And with the utter lack of poise and consistency behind center, when Stafford left the game, the rushing game was completely sacrificed as the team attempted to come from far, far behind. D’Andre Swift had an early game fumble and the game formula simply wasn’t in his favor on Saturday. Swift has had a hard time currying favor with this coaching squad, and if he can’t keep the ball in his hands, his role as a starter could be either removed or severely limited. It’s unfortunate, as we’ve all seen how dynamic Swift can be, but as the aforementioned Ronald Jones could explain, fumbles are potentially the biggest hampering to a young rusher’s value.
Swift is a top 5 potential running back, but there are a lot of roadblocks in Detroit to overcome. Poor management, poor drafting, poor coaching, and reaching the end of Stafford’s career could make this all a touch more difficult for Swift.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Danny Amendola: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 37 yards
T.J. Hockenson: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 23 yards
Mohammed Sanu Jr: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 22 yards
Marvin Jones Jr: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 19 yards
Quintez Cephus: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards
Jesse James: 1 target, 0 receptions
Danny Amendola had the most targets, despite the majority of those being a Matthew Stafford partnership. The remainder of the game was a mish-mash of attempts to get the offense fired up by the big-bodied playmaking ability of T.J. Hockenson, or some odd semblance of cobbling together targets to Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Jones, who often has been seen as the heir apparent for targets while Golladay is out, has not truly splashed, spare two games of one hundred plus yards in his last 8 weeks. No one really looked amazing on this side of the scoreboard, as the Bucs swallowed up all the offensive output. By sheer lack of options, Jones remains the highest-ranked offensive weapon to pass to, but he really hasn’t done much to keep that favor. Hockenson is the best talent in the air and will continue to see himself and his value rise, as he should be healthy going into next season, but the worries on if Stafford stays/retires/is ever as strong a player as he’s been given injuries will arise.
-Matthew Bevins (Reddit:TheLongSpring/Twitter:MattQbList)