Lions' faint playoff hopes remain alive after ugly win over Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. -- It was ugly all over the place, turnover after turnover, chances to close out the game blown. Matthew Stafford was at times sharp and at times making poor decisions leading to turnovers.

The Detroit Lions blew a 14-point lead. They -- perhaps smartly -- abandoned the run game. The offense couldn’t capitalize on the many, many chances the Lions' defense provided. And yet the Lions did what they have so often done under Jim Caldwell: With a few minutes remaining and Stafford with the ball, they drove down the field and with a 46-yard Matt Prater field goal, managed to beat Tampa Bay, 24-21.

"Of course we didn’t want it to end like that, we wanted it to be how it was," cornerback Darius Slay said. "They were making great plays out there to put them in position to make it a close game. What we do is we try our best to finish like coach teaches us and trains us for those moments."

And that, more than anything, is what matters for the Lions in the short term as they cling to hopes of winning out and trying to secure an unlikely playoff berth.

What it means: Simply that the Lions still have a chance at the playoffs, although Carolina’s win over Minnesota hurts Detroit’s wild-card chances while simultaneously still keeping their faint NFC North title hopes alive (the Lions have to win out and Vikings lose out for that to happen). It also means Detroit snapped a two-game losing streak.

What I liked: Golden Tate continues to be a consistent presence for Detroit. He caught his first outdoor touchdown for the Lions in the United States and had eight catches for 85 yards. The defense did what it needed to in order to blow the game open -- forcing five turnovers -- and that’s about all you can really ask from a defense in any game.

"Defense, we did a great job. We got turnovers early, stopped the run early, man," Lions defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. "Didn’t let their big-play receivers get down the field so, hey, man, tremendous job by the corners, the secondary and just the defense. Offense did a great job just moving the ball all day."

Slay and Glover Quin continued to play at Pro Bowl levels; Slay with an interception, fumble recovery and two passes defended and Quin with a fumble recovery. Quandre Diggs also had a strong game with a forced fumble, a pass defended and an interception. Prater is still clutch in the fourth quarter.

What I didn’t like: Let’s start with the fourth quarter, when the Lions blew a 14-point lead in a game they had to have. That’s just poor for a team clinging to any hope of the postseason and their coach’s job in jeopardy. The offense continued to not capitalize on multiple opportunities. Of course, that was helped by the three turnovers the Lions committed on their own. Some of Stafford’s decision-making was also questionable, including the two interceptions he threw in the second quarter on drives that could have finished with points. Running with little-used Zach Zenner on third down on the final drive of the game needing 1 yard. The Lions didn’t get the first down, giving Tampa Bay some time after Prater’s field goal. Just questionable personnel usage.

Fantasy fallout: Eric Ebron gave you more than you likely expected in fantasy with his best game of the season, a 10-catch, 94-yard performance. It was a career day for Ebron, who had highs in receptions and yards. Theo Riddick was a big-time contributor, too, with two rushing touchdowns (the first time in his career that’s happened). But the Lions' run game was mostly a disappointment, as usual.

What’s up with Ameer Abdullah? The running back practiced all week and seemed to be good to go after missing Week 13 with a neck injury. Then the Lions scratched him from the lineup, instead choosing to go with Riddick, Zenner and Tion Green. Overall, Detroit went with a pass-based offense, which makes the decision to sit Abdullah more intriguing considering he’s a better pass-catching back than Zenner and Green (although Zenner is likely for pass protection purposes). This will be something to monitor the rest of the season considering Abdullah enters the final year of his contract in 2018, and the Lions' run game has been one of the franchise’s biggest struggles the past two seasons.

What’s next: The Lions have a national audience -- likely their last of the season -- facing Chicago on Saturday afternoon. Detroit beat the Bears, 27-24, in Chicago last month.