All signs pointed to it being ugly, but this was beyond comprehension.
The Detroit Lions, playing without five coaches because of COVID-19 protocols, including their play callers on both sides of the ball, and an equal number of defensive starters because of injury, lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to an ankle injury in the first quarter and the respect of just about everyone watching with an embarrassing 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday at Ford Field.
Tom Brady completed 22 of 27 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns before mercifully giving way to Blaine Gabbert at the start of the third quarter, and the Bucs set franchise records for points (34), total yards (410) and passing yards (341) in a first half.
The Lions, with Chase Daniel playing most of the game in place of Stafford and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan calling plays for sidelined interim head coach Darrell Bevell, did not cross midfield on offense until 14:16 remained in the game and got their only points courtesy of a 74-yard Jamal Agnew punt return touchdown in the third quarter.
As inept as they were offensively, with 186 net yards, the Lions were even worse on defense. Both Brady and Gabbert had their way with a secondary that looked disinterested in playing, and the Bucs amassed a season-high 588 yards of offense.
Brady finished with a perfect passer rating (158.3) and might have challenged Norm Van Brocklin’s single-game passing record of 554 yards had he been allowed to play one more quarter.
Gabbert threw his first touchdown pass 10 seconds into the second half, one play after D’Andre Swift lost a fumble, and finished 9 for 15 for 143 yards.
The Bucs improved to 10-5 with the victory and clinched a playoff berth, in Brady’s first season in Tampa, for the first time since 2007.
The Lions (5-10) have lost three straight and five of their past six games, and enter next week’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings with the look of a team that simply wants the season to end.
Bevell, one of five Lions coaches deemed a high-risk close contact to a confirmed COVID positive, is expected to exit his five-day quarantine on Sunday.
He and fellow quarantined assistants defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, linebackers coach Ty McKenzie and secondary coach Steve Gregory took part in game-planning for the week, but were not allowed to have contact with the team or their fill-in coaches once the game started.
Wide receivers coach Robert Prince served as head coach Saturday, Ryan called offensive plays from the booth, and Evan Rothstein, a coaching assistant who has worked primarily on special projects and analytics during his nine seasons in Detroit, called defensive plays, both for the time in their careers.
Rothstein, making his way through the press box before kickoff, gave a thumbs up to reporter when asked if he was ready and said, “Another day at work.”
Rothstein and the Lions nearly got off the field with a three-and-out on the game’s first series, but Everson Griffen jumped offsides to nullify a Jahlani Tavai sack and Brady threw his first touchdown pass four plays later to Rob Gronkowski.
Stafford, playing with rib and right thumb injuries, hurt his right ankle on the third play of the ensuing series as he backpedaled trying to avoid a hit by Bucs linebacker Devin White.
He stayed in one more play, but left after a short pass to Danny Amendola forced a Lions punt and spent the next few minutes meeting with doctors and trainers on the Lions sideline.
Unable to put weight on his right foot, Stafford hopped on his left leg to the tunnel behind the Lions bench as Brady was throwing his second touchdown pass of the game to Mike Evans for a 13-0 Bucs lead.
Stafford returned to the Lions sideline late in the first half with his right foot heavily taped and now awaits a new head coach-general manager tandem that will decide his future in Detroit.
Daniel finished 13 of 18 passing for 86 yards, while David Blough, playing most of the fourth quarter, was 6 of 10 for 49 yards with one interception for the Lions.
Evans had 10 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs, who also got two touchdowns from Gronkowski and one each from Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette and Chris Godwin.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions humiliated 47-7 by Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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