By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need just one more win in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs. While a matchup with the 5-9 Lions didn’t create the most difficult scenario for 9-5 Tampa, it’s now seemingly gotten much easier.
That’s because interim head coach Darrell Bevell and “almost all” of the defensive coaching staff are considered close contacts of the members of the organization who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the Lions aren’t sure who will be able to coach their team for Saturday’s game against the Bucs.
Sources: The #Lions COVID-19 positives from yesterday left their coaching staff in a difficult situation. Almost all of their defensive staff members are considered close contacts, while interim coach Darrell Bevell is, too. DET is still determining who can coach this Saturday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 23, 2020
UPDATE: Bevell was ruled out for Saturday’s game on Thursday morning, which leaves wide receiver’s coach Robert Price to serve as interim head coach for the interim head coach.
The fact that Detroit is playing on Saturday instead of Sunday of course does the team no favors, as an extra day to produce negative tests would likely be a benefit to the Lions.
Detroit worked remotely on Tuesday and said Wednesday that an outdoor practice would be held, with meetings moving to a remote format.
We anticipate conducting an outdoor practice this afternoon and our players and coaches will continue to meet virtually this morning.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 23, 2020
The stakes may not be particularly high for the Lions, who have lost four of their last five games, fired their coach last month, and are heading nowhere in the NFC. Still, NFL teams typically try their best to win football games, and the opportunity to disrupt Tampa’s postseason plans is often enough to create a competitive atmosphere once the game kicks off and the players’ juices are flowing.
This disruption, though, is certain to cause major problems in the Lions’ ability to game-plan for Brady and the Bucs.
And thus, the red carpet may be laid out for Brady to have a big offensive game. Coming off a 390-yard, two-touchdown performance last week, he likely didn’t need anything to break his way in order to have a good game against the Lions, who have the NFL’s worst scoring defense and a bottom-five pass defense — in yards allowed, touchdowns allowed, and interceptions recorded.
Brady will enter Saturday’s game with a 65.1 percent completion rate, 3,886 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Brady will enter Saturday’s game with a 65.1 percent completion rate, 3,886 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If the quarterback can throw five touchdowns over his final two weeks of the season, he’ll finish the year with the third-most touchdowns he’s ever thrown in any season of his long career.
A playoff-clinching opportunity barely moved the needle during Brady’s days in Foxboro, as the Patriots made the playoffs just about every year for two decades. But in Tampa, where the Bucs haven’t made the postseason since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff game since their Super Bowl victory way back in 2002, it’s a much larger deal.
And with Brady at the helm against a team that was without its defensive coaches all week and may be without those coaches on game day, things could get ugly in Detroit on Saturday afternoon.