TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jared Goff and the streaking Detroit Lions keep finding different ways to win.
A week after improving on their best start in more than a decade without injured star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the NFC North leaders used Goff's arm and a stingy defense to overcome the loss of leading rusher David Montgomery to beat the sputtering Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-6 on Sunday.
With Montgomery (ribs) sidelined after the second quarter and injured backup Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) also unavailable, Goff threw for 353 yards and two touchdowns to help the Lions win their fourth straight game following an overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
At 5-1, the Lions are off to their fastest start since 2011 and share the NFL's best record.
“We’ve played well for six weeks. It’s four in a row for us. It’s a pretty good feeling, yeah, it certainly is,” Goff said.
“I can’t say enough about our defensive performance today and really for five games this year, to be honest with you," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "Man, we’re just playing as one unit right now. When your defense only gives up six points it's saying a lot.”
Goff tossed TD passes of 27 yards to Amon-Ra St. Brown and 45 yards to Jameson Williams, converting on third-and-13 in one instance and third-and-10 on the other as Detroit won for the seventh time in eight road games dating to last season.
The Lions' defense did its part by intercepting Baker Mayfield once, limiting the Bucs (3-2) to 251 yards of total offense and forcing Tampa Bay to settle for field goals of 33 and 36 yards on its only possessions that ended in Detroit's red zone.
“It was awful,” Mayfield said. "We didn’t start fast, we didn’t pick it up in the middle and we didn’t close strong. The Lions are a good ball club, but if we play like that we’ll lose every time.”
Will Harris intercepted a Mayfield pass that was tipped at the line to set up Riley Patterson's 30-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. Goff put Detroit ahead for good by finishing an eight-play, 75-yard drive with his TD throw to St. Brown on third-and 13 from the Bucs 27.
St. Brown caught a short throw on the left, took off across the middle of the field and picked up a key block from running back Craig Reynolds, who flattened cornerback Carlton Davis III to allow the receiver to turn the corner and not only pick up the first down but make it to the end zone for a 10-3 lead.
“They did a good job on third down. I think we were 2 for 12 on third down, which is not very good at all,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said, adding he felt his team, which leads the NFC South, was sluggish coming out of its bye week.
“We weren’t very good on first or second down either,” Bowles continued, "so you can say the whole game was a wash from an offensive standpoint.”
Goff completed 30 of 44 passes without an interception and was sacked three times. St. Brown, who missed Detroit's lopsided win over Carolina the previous week due to an abdomen injury, finished with 12 receptions for 124 yards, both season highs.
Mayfield was 19 of 37 for 206 yards and one interception. The Bucs were limited to 46 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
The Lions, meanwhile, were held to 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Montgomery carried six times for 14 yards before being injured on his only reception. Reynolds filled in with a team-high 15 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes for 28 yards.
Reynolds' block that helped St. Brown score was his most impressive contribution.
“I was like, ‘Know what, go cut across the field, I’m going to try and score,'” St. Brown said. "So I cut across and I see 24 (Davis). I see Craig come out of nowhere and I kind of point at 24 and Craig just zoom, boom. He’s the reason I scored.”
The Bucs wore orange throwback jerseys and white helmets bearing the image of Bucco Bruce — a winking Pirate with a dagger clenched between his teeth — from a period many fans of the team prefer to forget. Tampa Bay had the worst winning percentage of any franchise in U.S. major sports while wearing the creamsicle uniforms from 1976 to 1996. The team's primary colors have been red and pewter since 1997.
Detroit rookie TE Sam LaPorta had four catches for 36, narrowly missing out on joining Keith Jackson (Philadelphia, 1988), Jordan Reed (Washington, 2013) and Kyle Pitts (Atlanta, 2021) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 30 receptions in the first six games of a career. LaPorta, who was targeted 11 times on Sunday, has 29 catches.
Lions: CB Brian Branch (ankle), G Jonah Jackson (ankle) and RB Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) were inactive. RB David Montgomery (ribs) was injured at the end of a 19-yard reception in the second quarter and did not return.
Buccaneers: CB Jamel Dean and DL Calijah Kancey (calf) returned to the starting lineup, however OLB Anthony Nelson (concussion) was inactive.
Lions: Remain on road versus the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.
Buccaneers: Host NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
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