TAMPA – Detroit ended its 26-game road-losing streak in dramatic fashion with a 23-20-overtime win in Tampa Bay. The stunning loss to the Lions may have ended the Bucs’ playoff hopes. Tampa Bay is now 8-6 on the season and trails the 9-5 New York Giants, which lost 38-31 to Philadelphia, by one game.
For the Bucs to make the playoffs, they have to win the next two games against Seattle and at New Orleans and hope that the Giants lose their last two games at Green Bay and at Washington.
“We’re obviously disappointed. We lost a game that we could have won and had in our grasp,” said Bucs head coach Morris. “We let one slip away in the fourth quarter, which is kind of unlike us and unfamiliar to us.
“It is certainly a gut-punch, but not a deathblow. We have to get ready to get back on the shelf. The most important game is the next one and Sunday can’t come fast enough.”
The Bucs tied the game at 17-17 with 8:51 remaining in the fourth quarter after Connor Barth’s 30-yard field goal. But on third-and-goal from the Detroit 2, tight end Kellen Winslow appeared to have scored a touchdown in the corner of the end zone with Lions safety C.C. Brown draped all over him. But head linesman Greg Bradley blew the obvious pass interference call on Brown, who wasn’t even looking for the ball, and called offensive pass interference on Winslow, much to the chagrin of Tampa Bay’s tight end and the 40,000-plus in attendance at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs had to settle for Barth’s field goal as Josh Freeman’s pass to Mike Williams on third-and-goal from the Detroit 12 fell incomplete. Tampa Bay could have certainly used those four points later in the game and blew an opportunity to score despite having three shots inside Detroit’s 2-yard line.
But the contest ultimately came down to Tampa Bay’s final possession where Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson appeared to play too conservatively with first-and-10 from the Detroit 15. After two runs by Cadillac Williams netted a total of three yards, Freeman gained only four yards on a quarterback sneak on third-and-7 from the Detroit 12. Morris wanted the Lions to have to burn their three timeouts, which they did, and line up for a 26-yard field goal that gave Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead with 1:39 left in regulation.
“We wanted to win it on defense,” Morris said. “We wanted to take their timeouts and make us win it on defense, make them drive the length of the field and kick a field goal. They got a nice kickoff return, got in a nice position, were able to execute some plays on offense and set themselves up for a field goal to tie the [game] up and send it into overtime where, eventually, they won it. But you want to win those games on defense. We had the ability to. I an second-guess myself tomorrow when I go back and look at it, and try to win it with [QB Josh Freeman], but I wanted to win it on defense today.”
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, that’s where the Bucs lost the game as Detroit had too much time to work with. Quarterback Drew Stanton, who filled in for injured starter Shaun Hill and completed 23-of-37 passes (62.1 percent) for 252 yards and one touchdown, hit wide receiver Calvin Johnson twice for 27 yards to get the Lions into field goal range for Dave Rayner’s 28-yarder with no time left to force overtime. Johnson torched the Bucs with 10 catches for 152 yards, including a clutch, 12-yard grab on the sideline on third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 37 to put Detroit into field goal range for Rayner’s 34-yard game-winner.
“We didn’t play well enough on defense on that last drive,” Morris said. “We have to play better there. We can’t give up 150 or however many yards receiving to Calvin Johnson. We have to be able to stand up to that guy no matter what. He made some unbelievable catches and he’s a great player, but that’s no excuse. You have to be ready to deal with him.”
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber said it best after the game when referencing Johnson.
“He beat us today,” Barber said. “We’ve got to be able to play better two-minute defense. We haven’t stopped the run in two-minute the last three weeks I think. They kind of moved the ball at will. We held them to a field goal there but we had a chance to win the ballgame. They had no timeouts left. It was a disappointment on defense.”
Barber only covered Johnson for a couple of plays while second-year cornerback E.J. Biggers, who is starting in place of the injured Aqib Talib, who was missed on Sunday, was assigned to him most of the game.
“He’s everything you want in a receiver and when it was time for him to make plays he stepped up and made some plays in tough situations,” Biggers said. “Everybody has to step up when it’s time to step.”
Detroit won the coin toss in overtime and elected to receive. The Lions gashed the Bucs with a 26-yard run by Maurice Morris on first-and-10 from the Detroit 21, followed by a 14-yard run by Jahvid Best, who got the ball out to the Tampa Bay 21.
“They ran a couple plays, and I don’t think we stopped them the whole second half,” Miller said. “They ran a couple plays, and I don’t think we stopped them the whole second half. … Basically, there are no excuses at the end of the day. We’re grown men. This is our job. It’s our job. It’s our fault. There’s no excuse for what happened. Somebody’s accountable, and we’ve got to figure it out tomorrow.”
Morris rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries (7.3 avg.) as Detroit ran for 181 yards on 28 carries (6.5 avg.). The Bucs’ ground game was just as good with LeGarrette Blount leading the way with 110 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (7.3 avg.) as Tampa Bay amassed 176 rushing yards.
Freeman finished the game completing 21-of-32 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions while being sacked three times by the Lions defense. His lone touchdown pass was to rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, who led the Bucs with 96 yards on six catches.
But in the end it was not enough as Tampa Bay’s offense had to settle for two field goals in the fourth quarter and its defense couldn’t stop Detroit’s final drive in the fourth quarter or its lone possession in overtime.
“Losing a game like this, it’s humiliating,” said Bucs nose tackle Roy Miller. “We had to win out and win every game, and we didn’t. We just couldn’t finish this week and it’s devastating. It really is.”
The Lions scored first with their touchdown drive covering 68 yards in seven plays. The big play came from Johnson, who hauled in a 20-yard pass out to the 50 on second-and-12 from the Detroit 30. Johnson also caught a 16-yard pass down to the Tampa Bay 10. On the next play, Nate Burleson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass and dragged Biggers to the end zone. With 2:06 left in the first quarter, Detroit took a 7-0 lead.
The Bucs tied the score with a touchdown drive of their own, featuring Mike Williams and Cadillac Williams. The running back picked up 18 yards on third-and-13 to move the chains and then had two carries for 13 yards. The rookie receiver had a 12-yard catch and then ended Tampa Bay’s eight-play, 60-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown. With 12:29 left in the second quarter, the score was tied at 7-7.
Tampa Bay moved in front on their next possession, driving 77 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Fullback Earnest Graham had two catches for 18 yards, including a 14-yarder on second-and-9 from the Detroit 47. On the next play, Blount ran over Brown for a 39-yard touchdown. With 3:41 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay took a 14-7 lead.
Detroit answered with a field goal on its next offensive series, moving 61 yards in 10 plays. Johnson came up with big receptions of 30 and 17 yards to get the Lions into field goal range. But after getting a first down at the Tampa Bay 13, Detroit got a 10-yard holding penalty and proceeded to throw three straight incompletions. Rayner was brought out for a 41-yard field goal, which was good. With 55 seconds left, Tampa Bay’s lead was cut to 14-10.
The Lions scored on the opening possession in the third quarter, covering 58 yards in nine plays. Burleson made two great plays, the first of which was a 25-yard on an end around. The next play was a 7-yard catch by Burleson down to the Tampa Bay 14. Two snaps later, Morris scored on a 10-yard run up the middle. With 10:16 left in the third quarter, Detroit reclaimed the lead, 17-14.
Tampa Bay drove down to the Detroit 1-yard line due to a 14-yard scramble by Freeman, a 24-yard pass to Mike Williams and a 27-yard run by Blount, but the Bucs had to settle for a field goal after a terrible call by Bradley on third-and-goal from the Detroit 2. Winslow made a dramatic touchdown catch with Brown hanging all over him. However, Winslow was inexplicably called for offensive pass interference and the Bucs had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Barth. With 8:51 left in the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 17-17.
The Bucs moved the ball 57 yards in 11 plays to get in position for Barth’s second field goal to put them in the lead. On third-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 35, Freeman hit Micheal Spurlock for a 19-yard gain to pick up the first down. On second-and-6 from the Detroit 42, Freeman completed a 13-yard pass to Mike Williams down to the Detroit 29. Then on third-and-1 at the Detroit 20, Lions defensive tackle Corey Williams was flagged for encroachment, which gave the Bucs a first down at the 15-yard line. But on third-and-7 from the Detroit 12, Freeman’s QB draw only picked up four yards and Barth had to come out for a 26-yard field goal to give the Bucs a three-point lead. With 1:39 left in regulation, Tampa Bay went on top 20-17 for a short-lived lead before Detroit rallied to tie the game and win it in overtime.STATS THAT COUNT
Bucs rookie wide receiver Mike Williams caught his eighth touchdown of the season, a 24-yarder in the second quarter, which was the most for a rookie in Tampa Bay history, beating Michael Clayton’s mark of seven that he set in 2004. … Bucs cornerback Myron Lewis made his first NFL start on Sunday as Tampa Bay opened the game in nickel coverage. … Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow extended his reception streak to 74 straight games today, which is the third-longest streak among active tight ends. He finished with four catches for 46 yards. … The Lions outgained the Bucs 433-403 yards. … Detroit converted 50 percent of their third downs (6-of-12) against Tampa Bay. … Neither team had any turnovers on Sunday. … Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber led the Bucs with nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. … Bucs linebacker Tyrone McKenzie made his NFL debut on Sunday.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Ted Larsen
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Derek Hardman
RT James Lee
TE Kellen Winslow
TE John Gilmore
RB LeGarrette Blount
FB Earnest Graham
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Tim Crowder
DT Frank Okam
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
LCB E.J. Biggers
NCB Ronde Barber
RCB Myron Lewis
FS Corey Lynch
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
FB Erik Lorig
WR Dezmon Briscoe
OT Will Barker
G Brandon Carter
DE George Johnson
CB D.J. Johnson
SS Larry AsanteBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Tampa Bay right tackle James Lee suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and was replaced by former starter Jeremy Trueblood. Lee did not return.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Lions game at Raymond James Stadium was 47,692. The game was played under cloudy skies with cold and breezy conditions and a kickoff temperature of 54 degrees with 96 percent humidity and a wind chill of 54.UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (8-6) return home to Raymond James Stadium to face the Seattle Seahawks (6-8) on Sunday, December 26. Kickoff is set for 4:15 p.m. ET and the game will be blacked out locally.
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