Not everything was special
Fortunately for normally steady Bucs kicker Ryan Succop, Saturday's special teams woes were almost totally shrouded by the offense's de facto clinic. Succop sent two extra points wide right, including his first attempt that bounced off the upright. He also sent a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide left in the fourth quarter, ending his streak of consecutive field goals at 21.

Additionally, Lions returner Jamal Agnew needed to break only one tackle on a 74-yard punt-return touchdown in the third quarter. It was the first punt return for a score against the Bucs since Devin Hester returned one 68 yards on Sept. 18, 2014.

By contrast, the Bucs started three possessions inside their 11 following punts. Returner Kenjon Barner appeared tentative on a first-half return and fielded it inside his 10. "Our special teams were a little shaky today," Arians said. "(Succop) just hates this turf and it showed today. I really wanted that goose egg, and we gave up that punt return. Everything can't be perfect but I'm always looking for perfect."

Bucs empty the bench
Tampa Bay's 34-point halftime cushion against a Lions team with a piecemeal coaching staff enabled Arians to substitute liberally in the second half. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, taking his first meaningful snaps in two years, played the entire second half and went 9-for-15 for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie tailback Ke'Shawn Vaughn ran for a game-high 62 yards on 15 carries.

Defensively, second-year cornerback Herb Miller, a former Florida Atlantic standout, had his first career interception in the fourth quarter. Miller was elevated from the practice squad for Saturday's game when injured starter Carlton Davis (groin) was ruled out. Second-year defensive peers Jeremiah Ledbetter and Anthony Nelson each registered their first full NFL sacks.

"Blaine hadn't played in a year and a half," Arians said. "People don't know how good Blaine Gabbert is; I mean, he can really spin a football. And we've known what Ke'Shawn is, it's just getting an opportunity. He's so quick and sudden, a different-style runner. Leonard (Fournette) is a big, powerful guy. It just gives us another good change of pace."

Odds and ends
The Bucs have gone three consecutive games without a turnover. ... Tampa Bay's four sacks Saturday give the Bucs 47 for the season, tied for the most in the NFL through Saturday's 1 p.m. time slot. ... The seven points allowed Saturday were the fewest surrendered by the Bucs since a 29-7 win against the Bears in the 2017 opener. ... Gronkowski (two touchdown catches) now has 17 multi-touchdown games in his career, third-most by a tight end in NFL history. Antonio Gates (21) leads the way.

Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times, published 27 December 2020