Stafford’s 4th winning drive leads Lions over Bucs 24-21

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TAMPA, Fla. — With the clock running down in a tie game, the Detroit Lions didn’t have any qualms about the ball being in Matthew Stafford‘s injured throwing hand.

They’ve come to expect their quarterback to find a way to lead them to victory in those situations, and Stafford didn’t disappoint Sunday, when he threw for 381 yards and set up Matt Prater for a 46-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-21.

The victory stopped a two-game skid and kept the Lions (7-6) in playoff contention with three games remaining.

“I just think we have a lot of confidence. I think guys that have been around here have understood that sometimes that’s the way the game boils down. We go out there and make plays,” Stafford said after directing a winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime for the 32nd time in his career.

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“When you have success, it breeds confidence,” he added, “Frankly, there’s been some times this year where we haven’t been successful in those situations, some really close calls in some other games. It feels good to get back out there and have a two-minute drive, go down there and win the game.”

Stafford made his 109th consecutive start despite being limited in practice after his right hand was stepped on during the previous week at Baltimore . He completed 36 of 44 attempts against the Bucs (4-9), and the Lions overcame two interceptions and a fumble to stay alive for a playoff spot.

Jameis Winston rallied Tampa Bay, which has lost eight of 10 following a 2-1 start, with a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. But once again, the Bucs’ defense couldn’t hold off an opponent down the stretch.

A week ago, the Bucs led by a field goal in the closing minutes of regulation before losing 26-20 in overtime at Green Bay.

“This team is always going to fight. We’ve just got to learn how to come out on the other side of these things,” Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

“We fought back last week. We fought back this week,” McCoy, who left the game in the opening half with a biceps injury. “It’s a fine line between winning and losing. The fine line was a field goal today.”

Stafford moved the Lions 49 yards in eight plays to set up Prater’s winning kick with 20 seconds left – the fourth winning drive he’s led this season.

“Tough guy who heals quickly. It’s always been that way,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s a great leader. Did a tremendous out there for us under tough circumstances. … He threw the ball pretty well. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but he did a nice job.”

Stafford threw a 5-yard TD pass to Golden Tate and Theo Riddick scored on runs of 2 and 18 yards to help the Lions take a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

Winston, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, led a 75-yard drive that he finished with a 2-yard scoring pass to O.J. Howard and then used a 40-yard pass interference call against Detroit cornerback DJ Hayden to set a 2-yard TD throw to seldom-used offensive lineman Leonard Wester to make it 21-21 with eight minutes remaining.

Winston completed 26 of 38 passes for 285 yards. His fumble led to Riddick’s second TD run. Tampa Bay finished with five turnovers, and Winston was sacked three times.

The loss ensures the Bucs, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, will finish with a losing record . The team entered this season with heightened expectations after going 9-7 in their first year under coach Dirk Koetter, who now finds himself deflecting questions about whether his relationship with Winston – the top pick in the 2015 draft – is deteriorating.

“That’s obviously news to me. I think Jameis and I have an extremely consistent relationship for the last three years. I don’t think anything’s different about it, but that’s just my opinion,” the coach added before shrugging off another question about if he was concern about speculation about a possible riff between the two.

“It concerns me that we’re not winning enough games. That’s my biggest concern,” Koetter said. “I know the truth about our relationship. My big concern is our football team.”

TOUGH GUY

Stafford’s streak of 109 consecutive starts is the third-longest among NFL quarterbacks behind Matt Ryan (128) and Philip Rivers (119).

BAD CALL

It took two replay reviews for officials to get it right on a play initially ruled an incomplete pass and 15-yard penalty against the Lions for a hit on a defenseless receiver in the first half.

Officials first looked at Winston’s first-quarter completion to Howard, who fumbled after being hit in the shoulder by safety Quandre Diggs at Detroit’s 18-yard line. The Bucs retained possession when the play was ruled an incompletion and that a 15-yard penalty should be assessed from the spot of the previous play.

The Lions then successfully challenged the ruling of an incomplete pass. Following another review, referee Ed Hochuli announced Howard indeed caught the ball and took four steps before being hit, and the Lions were awarded the ball on the fumble recovery. There was no foul for the hit, which was legal.

INJURIES

Lions: Played without RT Rick Wagner (ankle), who was inactive.

Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy left in the first half with a shoulder/biceps injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

Lions: Return home to face Chicago on Saturday.

Buccaneers: Begin a stretch of three consecutive games to end the season against NFC South rivals, hosting Atlanta next Monday night.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

NFL moves 2021 Super Bowl to Tampa Bay from LA

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CHICAGO (AP) The 2021 Super Bowl has been moved by the NFL from Los Angeles to Tampa.

Five days after the opening of the $2.6 billion football stadium in Inglewood, California was pushed back to 2020 because of construction delays caused by Los Angeles’ uncommonly wet winter, league owners approved the move Tuesday. Owners voted unanimously to give the February 2021 game to Tampa and have the Rams’ and Chargers’ new home host the 2022 Super Bowl.

The NFL would have needed to waive a rule that prohibits a Super Bowl being played at a stadium before it has hosted two full regular seasons. Instead, it chose to move the game to Tampa, runner-up to Los Angeles in the bidding.

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“Our focus in this process is this building should host multiple Super Bowls over many generations, and we need to make sure we deliver a building that is an exceptional, Super Bowl-quality building,” Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said last week. “Our focus is more on the caliber of building than the exact year of the Super Bowl.”

Earlier, the NFL showed it wants to bring back a little bit of Broadway back to an end zone near you next season.

After years of limiting how -and how much – players could celebrate following touchdowns, the league decided to loosen up its rules, allowing players to again use the football as a prop,celebrate as a group and roll around or flap their arms like snow angels on the ground again if they choose.

In an email from Commissioner Roger Goodell sent to fans in an effort to deliver “a more exciting game experience,” the commissioner said the new guidelines came after conversations with more than 80 current and former players.

Asked whether he celebrated the new guidelines approved at Tuesday’s spring meetings, Goodell laughed.

“I did,” he said. “I can’t tell you how.”

Goodell said the moniker “No Fun League” had been thrown around since he was an intern in the league office. He welcomed the looser guidelines, also endorsed by Falcons President Rich McKay, who heads the NFL competition committee.

“The pendulum had swung a long way” in restricting players too much, McKay added.

The league, however, will continue to penalize any celebration deemed offensive or in bad taste, including those that embarrass opponents or mimic the use of weapons. If celebrations are deemed a violation by on-field officials, players could still be penalized under existing unsportsmanlike conduct and taunting violations, as well as fined.

“Everybody has a different idea where the line is,” the commissioner said.

There is no set time limit on how long such celebrations can continue. But the league is placing an emphasis on speeding up the pace of games. The 40-second play clock will begin once an official signals a touchdown and teams will have to snap the ball for their extra-point play at the end of the clock.

League officials will review celebrations during the preseason and anticipate providing guidance as the regular season progresses. Former player Jon Runyan, who is in charge of on-field disciplinary actions, will hear any appeals for players.

“I actually think it will be easier” for officials to determine which celebrations are appropriate, said Alberto Riveron, the league’s new senior vice president for officiating. “But some things will still be open to interpretation.”

Josh Gordon shines in preseason debut for Browns

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Josh Gordon showed why the Cleveland Browns are so happy to have him back on the field.

The talented receiver with a history of suspensions for drug violations caught everything thrown his way in his preseason debut Friday night, scoring on a 43-yard reception and also hauling in another pass from Robert Griffin III for a 44-yard gain that led to a first quarter field goal in a 30-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in one half of work for the Bucs, who achieved an objective of starting faster on offense than they did the previous two weeks.

Griffin completed 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards, one TD and no interceptions before being replaced by Josh McCown at the start of the third quarter. Gordon was only targeted twice and finished with 87 yards receiving, both his catches coming when he beat cornerback Brent Grimes, one of Tampa Bay’s key offseason acquisitions.

Gordon, whose preseason debut was delayed by a quadriceps injury, hadn’t played since December 2014. He was suspended all of last season for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse, and won’t be eligible for the first four games of this regular season.

A Pro Bowl selection in 2013 when he had 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine TDs, Gordon has been the subject of trade speculation during training camp. Although the Browns have said they’re not interested in moving him, and Gordon has said he wants to remain in Cleveland, club executive Sashi Brown said Thursday that like any player, there is a price for the 25-year-old receiver, who has been suspended for 27 of the last 32 games.

The NFL Network reported Friday that price is a “second-rounder and more.”

BIG PLAY DUO

Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans had five receptions for 115 yards, including a 34-yard TD from Winston, who completed 16 of 25 passes in what likely was his final tuneup for the regular season.

ROOKIE WATCH

Browns: First-round draft pick WR Corey Coleman played after sitting out the first preseason games with a sore hamstring.

Buccaneers: Struggling K Roberto Aguayo rebounded from missing three kicks in the first two weeks of the preseason, booting field goals of 48, 21 and 27 yards and making all three of his extra points. The second-round draft pick missed an extra point at Philadelphia two weeks ago, then failed to convert a pair of field goals against Jacksonville. He had a rough week in practice, too, missing two field goals and getting booed by fans attending a Browns-Bucs joint practice.

POSITION BATTLES

Browns: CB Jamar Taylor, who has replaced Tramon Williams as a starter, got spun around in coverage on Evans’ TD catch.

Buccaneers: LG Josh Allen and RG Evan Smith filled in for starters Kevin Pamphile and Ali Marpet, who did not dress.

NEW LOOK

The Buccaneers unveiled six new video boards with a total display area of 28,416 square feet, which the team says is the third largest in the NFL. The Hall of Fame Club, a premium seating area located on the suite level of Raymond James Stadium, also made its debut.

INJURY UPDATE:

Browns: In addition to Gordon (quad) and Coleman, CB Joe Haden (ankle surgery) made his preseason debut; CB Tramon Williams (toe) did not dress; C Cameron Erving (ankle), played after being hurt during Wednesday’s joint practice; CB Justin Gilbert (concussion) and WR Marlon Moore (hip) left the game in the second quarter.

Buccaneers: WR Donteea Dye suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter and did not return; LB Daryl Smith, TE Luke Stocker, DT Clinton McDonald and reserve RB Mike James did not dress.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL