TAMPA — The Bucs’ unlikely comeback to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter was capped by the most unlikely of targets. Tampa Bay tied the game when Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard pass to 305-pound Leonard Wester, a backup lineman who lined up eligible as a "jumbo" tight end.
"We ran that play on the series before, and Coach said, ‘They didn’t even cover you, so next time, we’re going to look for you," said Wester, who had played just six offensive snaps all season before similar spot duty Sunday.
Wester had reported eligible on the previous drive when the Bucs threw a 2-yard touchdown to O.J. Howard. When they got to the 2 again, needing a touchdown to tie, Wester blocked his defensive end for a split second and then released to the end zone, catching a wide-open touchdown.
"Last time I caught a pass? I’ve never actually caught a pass," said Wester, who made the roster last year as an undrafted rookie from tiny Missouri Western. "The last time I touched the ball was eighth grade, when I played quarterback. It means a lot more in a win, but I’m thankful for the opportunity."
Winston said the Wester throw was a favorite moment in a disappointing loss.
"It’s always good to get a big man in the end zone," he said. "That was one of the few fun things about today’s game. ... That put a smile on my face. I’m happy Leonard Wester got himself a touchdown. You should have seen the look on those offensive linemen’s faces."
ANOTHER FUMBLE: LB Lavonte David forced and recovered a fumble from Lions TE Eric Ebron — his five fumble recoveries this season are a Bucs record, and his five forced fumbles are the most in any season since Stylez White in 2007.
David is tied with Houston’s J.J. Watt for the most fumble recoveries in the NFL since 2011 and needs one more fumble recovery to match Ronde Barber (12) for the Bucs’ career record. He still needs eight forced fumbles to catch Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice, who have that team record with 25 each.
UPON REVIEW: It took seven minutes for officials to decide on the call in a first-quarter play where Howard caught a 21-yard pass and was hit squarely by Detroit’s Quandre Diggs, knocking the ball loose.
The initial call had Diggs flagged for unnecessary roughness, but Detroit challenged the call and officials found that because Howard completed the catch, he wasn’t a defenseless receiver, so there was no penalty. Instead of the Bucs having the ball inside the Detroit 25 with a chance to take the lead, the Lions took over. That started a run of five turnovers in six possessions for the Bucs.
THIS AND THAT: Howard’s 2-yard touchdown was his fifth this season, matching Tim Wright (2013) for the most ever by a Bucs rookie tight end. Only two other tight ends (Giants’ Evan Engram this year, Chargers’ Hunter Henry in 2016) have had five TDs as rookies in the last four years. ... Rookie WR Chris Godwin had a strong game, catching a team-best five passes for 68 yards and leading the team with two special-teams tackles. ... The Bucs again had zero sacks, giving them an NFL-low 17 this season. The team record for fewest is 19, set in 1986. The 1982 Bucs played only nine games and still had 25.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.