Every Monday during the summer, positive or negative, we’re counting down the top 10 turning points from the season before.
Though the Detroit Lions struggled with turnovers in 2013, in few games was this as obvious than a November tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite coming in as the prohibitive favorite and scoring the first touchdown of the game, the Lions managed to cough the ball up five times en-route to their 24-21 loss. The worst mistake? Matthew Stafford‘s critical interception just before halftime, which gave Tampa Bay the lead and confidence.
Stafford had plenty of accuracy problems in 2013, but his worst may have come in this game. The quarterback made too many mistakes, accounting for four of Detroit’s five turnovers. In only the second series of the day, Stafford pitched the ball to Lavonte David, leading to the first points of the day via field goal.
Though Detroit would fight back to take the lead twice, Stafford’s late interception would prove to be the killer. It provided the Buccaneers with immediate points and life before halftime. In the second half with the Lions on the move, Stafford got a bizarre deflection near the goal line off the hands of Calvin Johnson for his third pick of the day. Finally, with Tampa Bay leading and the Lions trying to come back, Jonathan Banks sealed the deal, picking off one final pass.
It was a game, quite simply, that if not for the mistakes (included in the interception barrage was a fumble and a blocked punt) the Lions should have won. Detroit had more passing yards, rushing yards and plays run than Tampa Bay, but still managed to come up on the short end thanks to the untimely interceptions which stalled drives.
As always in the NFL, the blame would fall mostly on the quarterback. Stafford’s erratic play wasn’t the only reason the Lions fell apart, but thanks to the scope of the interceptions, it became the focal point. People continued to realize that Detroit’s losses were being aided by bad play at the position, and that Jim Schwartz and his staff were not doing enough to help their young signal caller through.
If December was the end for Schwartz, this late November loss against a worse team, which helped put a dent in Detroit’s playoff chances, probably marked its beginning. Though the Lions demolished a shorthanded Green Bay Packers squad on Thanksgiving and still had hope to win the division, they finished the season a woeful 0-4, stealing heartbreak from what seemed to be near-certain joy.
Arguably, the seeds of that were first planted within this lackadaisical turnover filled effort, which may have incidentally personified Stafford’s 2013 season.