DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are taking advantage of the softer portion of their schedule.
Stafford threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns -- including one off a fluky deflection late in the game -- and the Detroit Lions kept the pressure on in the NFC North race with a 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Lions (9-4) trail first-place Green Bay by a half-game, with the Packers hosting Atlanta on Monday night. Detroit has won two in a row by the same 34-17 score.
The Lions beat Chicago on Thanksgiving, and they end this three-game home stretch next weekend against Minnesota.
Tampa Bay (2-11) was finally eliminated from playoff contention -- the NFC South's mediocrity could only keep the Bucs in it for so long. They turned the ball over three times in the second quarter against Detroit and never led.
Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown for Detroit, which snapped a nine-game losing streak in December.
Mike Evans caught two touchdown passes for the Bucs, but quarterback Josh McCown was under pressure all day, and Tampa Bay managed only 26 yards rushing against Detroit's stout defensive front.
Stafford went 26 of 34 without an interception, and he and Johnson seem to be clicking again at the right time. The Detroit quarterback was also a bit fortunate on his fourth-quarter scoring pass to Joique Bell.
Stafford had a pass bounce off someone at the line of scrimmage -- Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy was in the area -- and it bounced back toward Bell, who alertly grabbed it out of midair and ran into the end zone for the game's final score.
Detroit opened the scoring on Stafford's 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson, and Patrick Murray answered with a 54-yard field goal for the Bucs.
The Bucs' first turnover came when McCown's pass deflected off Evans and was picked off by a sliding Glover Quin, who reached out with his left hand to secure the ball at the Tampa Bay 34. Bell's 1-yard scoring run made it 14-3.
A fumble on a snap gave the Lions the ball at the Tampa Bay 32 moments later, and Detroit managed a field goal off that turnover.
Late in the half, the Bucs caught a break after McCown's pass was intercepted in the end zone by James Ihedigbo. The Detroit safety tried to run the ball out, but he ended up fumbling it back to Tampa Bay.
The Bucs took over at the Detroit 10 and scored a touchdown with 5 seconds left on McCown's 5-yard pass to Evans.
Stafford threw a 53-yard pass to Johnson to set up a third-quarter field goal, and his 10-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria made it 27-10.
Evans caught a 26-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth, using one arm to secure the ball in the back of the end zone.
Bell broke free for a 57-yard run in the final minutes. That helped set up his 5-yard touchdown catch off the bizarre deflection.