The Detroit Lions entered Sunday’s game with an NFL-leading 15 takeaways and created two more, which proved to be the difference in their 23-16 victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field.
The Lions now have 17 takeaways, and have turned their opponents’ miscues into 62 points. Fourteen of those points came against the Buccaneers, who failed to produce a turnover on defense themselves on Sunday. Those turnovers, a missed field goal by Matt Bryant and a blocked Josh Bidwell punt were the difference in the game for Detroit, which improves to 4-2 on the season.
The Bucs, now 4-3 with the loss, moved the ball with ease against a Lions defense led by former Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, racking up 422 yards and converting 8-of-14 third down opportunities (57 percent). Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia was 37-of-45 passing for 316 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions for the seventh straight game. But Garcia’s two fumbles proved to be costly for the Buccaneers as they were cashed into 14 points by the opportunistic Lions defense.
Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham produced 184 total yards on 31 touches. He led all receivers with 13 catches for 99 yards and also fueled the running game with 92 yards on 19 carries for the Buccaneers. All were career-highs. After failing to generate much in the way of rushing yards over the last two games, Tampa Bay ran for 128 yards on 29 carries.
Although the Lions only gained 278 yards of offense, 147 of those yards came on the ground with Kevin Jones leading the way. Jones had 15 carries for 76 yards and one touchdown. Reserve halfback T.J. Duckett rushed for 30 yards on four carries and rookie wide receiver Calvin Johnson scored a touchdown on a 32-yard reverse to give Detroit a 23-7 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay rallied to score a touchdown and a field goal, thanks to a successfully recovered onsides kick, but their comeback attempt fell short when a second onsides kick was recovered by Detroit with just over one minute remaining.
The first quarter saw two major instant replay reversals. On Tampa Bay’s first drive on second-and-5 at the Detroit 44, linebacker Paris Lenon sacked quarterback Jeff Garcia, forcing a fumble that rolled back 28 yards before fullback B.J. Askew recovered on the Bucs’ 28-yard line. But not wanting to face a third-and-33 situation, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden threw the red flag and challenged the play. By way of the “Tuck Rule,” the ruling on the field was reversed to an incomplete pass and the Bucs had the ball back at the Detroit 44 with 13:16 left in the first quarter. Ironically, that would be Garcia’s only incompletion of the first half as he would end up completing 18 straight passes, which tied Brad Johnson’s team record.
But on back-to-back plays, a pair of former Buccaneers defensive ends made big plays against Tampa Bay. On third-and-5 at the Lions’ 44, defensive end Dewayne White beat right tackle Jeremy Trueblood for a sack, his first of three on the day, to force a Tampa Bay punt. Then former Buccaneers defensive end Corey Smith blocked Josh Bidwell’s punt and the Lions took over on the Tampa Bay 37.
The next instant replay reversal came on third-and-5 at the Bucs’ 16-yard line. The original call on the field was that Kitna fumbled while scrambling with Bucs free safety Tanard Jackson recovering the loose ball and returning it 79 yards for an apparent touchdown. But after instant replay, referee John Parry ruled that Kitna’s arm was going forward and it brought up fourth-and-5. On the next play, Jason Hanson’s 34-yard field goal was good with 9:55 left in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay turned the ball over on its next possession when Graham and Garcia fumbled the exchange at the Detroit 41 and the ball went right into the hands of Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who was penetrating the backfield and advanced it to the Tampa Bay 49. Jones rushed for 21 yards on three carries on Detroit’s next drive, including a 17-yarder down to the Tampa Bay 1 and a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Lions a 10-0 lead with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs would answer the Lions’ touchdown drive with one of their own on their next series. The big play on the drive was a 38-yard pass to a wide-open Ike Hilliard down to the Detroit 17. A 9-yard pass to fullback B.J. Askew gave the Bucs a first-and-goal at the Detroit 4, but a holding penalty on right tackle Jeremy Trueblood backed up Tampa Bay 10 yards. Graham, who had 23 yards on two catches on the drive, hauled in a 9-yard pass to make up most of that penalty yardage on the next play. With second-and-goal from the Detroit 5, a scrambling Garcia hit Hilliard for a touchdown by the pylon on the right side of the end zone. With 12:48 left in the second quarter, the score was 10-7 with the Lions on top. Tampa Bay’s scoring drive covered 81 yards on nine plays and took 5:03 off the clock.
But after an even longer, 16-play, time-consuming Buccaneers drive, Bryant missed a 40-yard field goal to the right at the two-minute warning that would have tied the game. That would prove costly as Detroit worked its two-minute drill to perfection with Kitna going 6-of-7 for 54 yards on the drive and getting the Lions into scoring territory. Bucs under tackle Jovan Haye sacked Kitna on third-and-3 at the Detroit 23 with nine seconds left to force a field goal attempt. Hanson’s 42-yard field goal gave Detroit a 13-7 halftime lead.
Detroit would increase its lead to 16-7 with 4:13 left in the third quarter after a 32-yard Hanson field goal. The Lions drove the ball 66 yards in 13 plays, taking 8:17 off the clock. Reserve running back T.J. Duckett carried the ball four times for 29 yards on the drive.
On its next possession, Tampa Bay drove all the way down to the Detroit 2-yard line. The big play on the drive was an 18-yard run by new running back Michael Bennett down to the 2. But on the next play, Garcia and center John Wade fumbled the snap and Lions defensive end Jared DeVries came up with the turnover at the Detroit 7.
With 11:49 left in the fourth quarter, Detroit took over on offense and added the finishing touches with a nine-play, 93-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 32-yard touchdown on a reverse by rookie wide receiver Calvin Johnson down the right sidelines. With 6:28 left in the fourth, Detroit increased its lead to 23-7.
Tampa Bay was able to get another touchdown on the board as Garcia led the Bucs on a 16-play, 78-yard scoring drive. With 2:03 left in the game, Garcia hit wide receiver Maurice Stovall for a touchdown on a 4-yard slant pass, but failed to hit tight end Anthony Becht in the back of the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Bucs kicker Matt Bryant executed a perfect onsides kick with the ball being blasted into Detroit’s front line. Cornerback Torrie Cox caught the ricochet and Tampa Bay took over at its 40-yard line. The Bucs needed 10 points to tie the game and opted to settle for a 48-yard Bryant field goal with 1:09 remaining to make the score 23-16. But Bryant’s second onsides kick was recovered by the Lions as tight end Casey Fitzsimmons outraced Cox for the loose ball at the Detroit 44.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…After an 18-yard run by Michael Bennett down to the Detroit 2, Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia and center John Wade fumbled the snap and Lions defensive end Jared DeVries recovered at the 7-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The score at the time was 16-7 with Detroit in the lead. Had Tampa Bay scored a touchdown, the Bucs would have been within a field goal of winning the game. Instead, Detroit marched 93 yards downfield to take a 23-7 lead with 6:28 left in the game. Tampa Bay didn’t have enough time to rally from a 16-point lead.
PEWTERREPORT.COM’S PEWTER PLAYER OF THE GAMEAfter his first pass resulted in an incompletion, quarterback Jeff Garcia would go on to complete a franchise-record 18 passes in a row in the first and second quarter, tying Brad Johnson’s club mark. Garcia finished the first half completing 19-of-20 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown in the half, and finished the game. He completed the game 37-of-45 passing (82 percent) for 316 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t have an interception for the seventh straight game. However, Garcia would fumble twice, the first of which appeared to actually be fumbled by Graham but was credited to Garcia in the gamebook, and those proved to be costly turnovers for the Buccaneers. Still, without his passing proficiency, Tampa Bay wouldn’t have been in this game at all, and for his efforts, Garcia is this week’s PewterReport.com Pewter Player of the Game. In 2007, Garcia has now completed 133-of-189 passes (70.4 percent) for 1,504 yards with seven touchdowns and no picks.
RECORDS, MILESTONES AND NOTES• Wearing number 29, running back Michael Bennett, who was acquired in a trade with Kansas City last week, made his first appearance for Tampa Bay at the 9:15 mark in the first quarter. Bennett was a decoy on the play. Bennett’s first carry came with 6:35 left in the first quarter and he picked up four yards on the play. He finished with 22 yards on three carries, including an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter.
• Jon Gruden came to Detroit with a 43-43 record as head coach of the Buccaneers, but Sunday’s 23-16 loss drops his win-loss percentage below .500 once again.
• After rushing for 47 yards in the last two games, the Bucs rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries (4.3 avg.) with Earnest Graham leading the way with a career-high 92 yards on 19 carries.
• Tight end Keith Heinrich was active for his first game as a Buccaneer. Heinrich was signed to the active roster on Saturday to help the tight end position with the absence of Alex Smith from the lineup.
• Tampa Bay outgained Detroit 248-126 in the first half, owning a 21:45 to 8:15 time of possession advantage, but was besieged by six penalties for 55 yards. Due to a turnover and a blocked punt, the Lions’ average start was at their own 44, while the Bucs’ average start was at their own 20-yard line. The Lions led 16-7 at the half and never relinquished their lead.
• Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway surpassed the 10,000-yard career receiving mark on Sunday. Galloway came into the game with 9,961 yards and had five catches for 46 yards on Sunday. He now has 10,007 yards in his 13-year NFL career.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks led his team in tackles with eight on Sunday and surpassed the 2,000-tackle mark in his career. Brooks entered the game with 1,996 tackles and now has 2,004 stops in his 12-year career.
STATS THAT COUNTTampa Bay wide receiver Ike Hilliard caught his first touchdown of the season – a 5-yarder – in the second quarter. Hilliard finished with 92 yards on nine catches. … Bucs middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was active for the first time this season and recorded a special teams tackle on a second quarter kickoff. … Fullback Zack Crockett got his first carry as a Buccaneer, but failed to pick up a yard. … Bucs wide receiver Maurice Stovall recorded his first NFL touchdown on his first catch of the season. … Bucs defensive end Greg White recorded a sack on Sunday and now has two on the year. … Tampa Bay nose tackle Chris Hovan shared a sack with defensive end Kevin Carter. The half-sack was Hovan’s first of the year. … Bucs under tackle Jovan Haye recorded his team-leading fourth sack of the season on Sunday.
BUCS’ STARTING LINEUPS VS. THE LIONSStarting offense: WR Joey GallowayLT Donald PennLG Arron SearsC John WadeRG Davin JosephRT Jeremy TruebloodTE Anthony BechtTE Jerramy StevensFB B.J. AskewRB Earnest Graham
Starting defense: LE Greg WhiteUT Jovan HayeNT Chris HovanRE Kevin CarterWLB Derrick BrooksMLB Barrett RuudSLB Cato JuneLCB Phillip BuchanonFS Tanard JacksonSS Jermaine PhillipsRCB Ronde Barber
Starting specialists:K Matt BryantP Josh BidwellLS Andrew Economos
BUCS-LIONS INACTIVESBucs Inactives:â€¨ CB Brian Kelly,â€¨RB Michael Pittman,â€¨LB TE Alex Smith,â€¨LB Adam Hayward,â€¨G Dan Buenning,â€¨DE Patrick Chukwurah,â€¨DT Ryan Sims and QB Luke McCown (emergency quarterback).
Lions inactives:â€¨CB Stanley Wilson, CB Dovonte Edwards, FB Sean McHugh, LB Anthony Canon, G Damien Woody, G Manny Ramirez, DE Ikaika Alama-Francis and QB Dan Orlovsky (emergency quarterback).
BUCS INJURIESCornerback Brian Kelly (groin), running back Michael Pittman (ankle), tight end Alex Smith and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder) did not make the trip to Detroit. Wide receiver Michael Clayton left the game after the first possession with a sprained right knee after hauling in a 20-yard catch. For the fourth straight game, the Buccaneers saw one of their players carted off due to a leg injury. This week, Mark Jones was the victim, injuring his left knee on a second quarter kick return. In the three previous games, Tampa Bay has lost running backs Cadillac Williams (at Carolina) and Michael Pittman (at Indianapolis) and tight end Alex Smith (vs. Tennessee) with leg injuries. Defensive end Greg Spires was injured in the third quarter, but returned to the game.
KICKOFF CONDITIONSThe announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Lions game at Ford Field was 60,442.
UP NEXTThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) will come home to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2) at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, October 28. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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