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Bucs-Lions: Tampa Bay has found its winning formula, and other things we learned

Strange but true: When Jameis Winston throws an early interception, more often than not, the Bucs win.
On Sunday, Jameis Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to gain 450 yards in back-to-back games.
On Sunday, Jameis Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to gain 450 yards in back-to-back games. [ PAUL SANCYA | Associated Press ]
Published Dec. 15, 2019
Updated Dec. 16, 2019

Observations from the Buccaneers’ 38-17 win over the Lions on Sunday:

1. The Bucs might have found their winning formula: Get the interceptions out of the way early. Jameis Winston threw a pick on Tampa Bay’s first possession for the fifth time this season. He didn’t throw another one afterward and went on to complete two-thirds of the rest of his passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns. In terms of passer rating, that’s a score of 136.4. The Bucs have now won four of the five games in which he has thrown an interception on their first possession.

2. It was a record-setting day for Winston. He threw for 221 yards in the first quarter, the most in an opening period since Peyton Manning gained 247 in 2004. He threw for 308 yards in the first half, the most by a Bucs quarterback in the first two quarters of a game. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to gain 450 yards in back-to-back games. He has thrown 30 touchdown passes this season, resetting the team record he established in 2016.

3. He did all that despite a hairline fracture in the thumb on his throwing hand.

Related: Jameis Winston makes his case for staying in Tampa Bay

4. Halfway through the second quarter, Winston had more touchdown passes (three) than Lions quarterback David Blough had passing yards (two).

5. Late in the first quarter, Winston led a five-play, 99-yard touchdown drive, the longest in team history. After a 4-yard Peyton Barber run, Winston completed an 11-yard pass to Scotty Miller, a 51-yard pass to Chris Godwin and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Miller, which was the first score of Miller’s career.

6. Winston put up record numbers even though the Bucs lacked a complementary run game. Tampa Bay rushed 29 times for 49 yards (1.7 yards per carry). So much for establishing the run.

7. The Bucs beat a bad Lions team that was down to its third-string quarterback. Still, they dominated the first half and, after a brief scare, clamped down in the fourth quarter. Their 21-point margin of victory is their largest since they beat the Bears 29-7 in Week 2 of the 2017 season.

8. It’s fair to point out that of Tampa Bay’s seven wins this season, only one has come against a team that presently has a winning record (the Rams). Unlike in the past, however, the Bucs aren’t just sneaking by bad teams. They’ve won four games by double digits this season, their most since 2012. For reference, in 2007 — the last time they reached the playoffs — they won five games by double digits.

9. Godwin’s 100-catch campaign is in jeopardy. He was carted to the locker room in the third quarter after injuring his hamstring. Including his five catches and 121 receiving yards Sunday, he was on pace for 98 catches and 1,523 receiving yards.

10. So this is weird: Godwin has had six 100-yard receiving games this season. All of them have been away from Tampa (at Carolina, at Los Angeles, at New Orleans, at London, at Atlanta and at Detroit).

Related: Sean Murphy-Bunting comes home to Detroit and takes one to the house

11. The four-game win streak is fun and all, but injuries to Mike Evans and now Godwin make you wonder whether it’s time to shut down some players for the rest of this season.

12. In Evans’ absence, Breshad Perriman had a day, catching five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard receiving game of his career and the first multi-touchdown game of his career.

13. The Bucs defense came up with three takeaways, including a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was born in the greater Detroit area and attended Central Michigan. The touchdown was the defense’s fifth of the season. It had one in 2018 and three in 2017.

14. Murphy-Bunting’s return was Tampa Bay’s longest defensive touchdown since 2013, when linebacker Mason Foster took a Drew Brees’ pass 85 yards the other way.

15. Anyone still want to question whether it was wise to pick three defensive backs in the first three rounds of April’s draft?

16. If only the Bucs had won that game against the Giants ...

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.