Lions Blow 17-0 Lead to Bucs, Lose 38-20

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So how did the Lions lose this week?  Well, they allowed the Buccaneers to outscore them 38-3 after going ahead 17-0 in the first quarter.  That's right, the Lions not only blew a 17-point lead, but they also let this game turn into a blowout.  It was typical Lions football both offensively, defensively, and on special teams, and they are now 0-11.

1st Quarter

  • After the Lions and Bucs traded punts to start the game, Detroit had success on its next drive.  On 3rd and 5, Daunte Culpepper found Casey FitzSimmons for a gain of 8, and on the very next play he found Calvin Johnson for a gain of 41.  Culpepper simply heaved the ball downfield and Johnson made the catch on a jump ball type of play.  The long pass set up a touchdown to Johnson from 15 yards out a few plays later on 3rd and 8, giving the Lions a surprising lead early on.
  • What was even more surprising is that the Lions quickly found the end zone again.  On the third play of the Bucs' next drive, Jeff Garcia and Carnell Williams ran into each other.  Garcia dropped the ball as a result of the collision, and Daniel Bullocks quickly picked it up and took it 44 yards for a touchdown.  Just like that, the Lions led 14-0.
  • Following a Tampa Bay three and out, the Lions went down the field again thanks mainly to a 26-yard run by Kevin Smith.  The Lions were unable to punch it into the end zone, but Jason Hanson did kick a 38-yard field goal to put Detroit on top 17-0.
  • At this point in the game, I thought that things were too good to be true.  Most Lions fans probably thought something similar and wondered how quickly the Lions would choke away this game.  As you are about to find out, it wouldn't take them very long.

2nd Quarter

  • The Buccaneers started their next drive in Lions' territory after a 69-yard kick return.  The good field position allowed Tampa Bay to go down the field and score after only 7 plays.  Warrick Dunn ran into the end zone from 13 yards out to score a touchdown, cutting the lead down to 10 points.
  • The Lions went three and out, allowing Tampa Bay to again cut into the lead.  The Bucs passed their way down the field this time, and the drive ultimately ended on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia to Ike Hilliard.  The TD pass was bad enough since Hilliard was open, but it was even worse that it came on 3rd and 13 when the Lions almost had the Bucs stopped.
  • Daunte Culpepper threw an interception on a 3rd and 16, as Ronde Barber stepped in front of Shaun McDonald to make the pick and to give the Bucs the ball at Detroit's 24-yard line.
  • It took only one play for Tampa Bay to complete the quick comeback, as Jeff Garcia found Jerramy Stevens wide open in the end zone for a touchdown.  There was some confusion among the Lions' linebackers and no one covered Stevens as he ran down the field.  In less than a quarter, the Buccaneers went from trailing 17-0 to leading 21-17.
  • The Lions were unable to move the ball very far on their next drive, so they punted with just over a minute left in the half.  The Bucs didn't do anything other than run out the clock, so they went into halftime leading 21-17.

3rd Quarter

  • The Bucs opened the second half by going three and out, giving Lions fans some hope that this would remain a close game.  After the Lions also went three and out, hope started to fade.  Then, on a Nick Harris punt, all hope was lost for good.  Harris' punt was returned by Clifton Smith for a 70-yard touchdown.  Smith ran by every Lions player and broke a tackle or two on his way into the end zone.  With Tampa Bay now ahead 28-17, it was assumed by most Lions fans that this game was already over.
  • Following another Lions three and out that happened because Calvin Johnson was interfered with on a pass downfield and no flag was thrown, the defense did make a play that put the offense in position to get some points.  Jeff Garcia was sacked by Cliff Avril, and the ball came loose as a result of the hit.  Chuck Darby recovered the fumble, and despite Garcia appearing to be down, the call was upheld following a Bucs challenge. 
  • The Lions had the ball in Tampa Bay territory, and on the first official play of the drive (a penalty negated the actual first play), Culpepper was intercepted again by Ronde Barber, who proceeded to return the pick 65 yards for a touchdown.  The throw was intended for Shaun McDonald but came up a bit short, and Barber simply jumped the route yet again.  This time, though, he was able to return the interception, and he took it to the house to give the Bucks a 35-17 lead.
  • Drew Stanton replaced Daunte Culpepper on the next drive and moved the ball into Tampa Bay territory twice before penalties backed the Lions up behind the 50.  The penalties contributed to the Lions' inability to pick up another first down, but they did catch a break on Nick Harris' punt.  Ike Hilliard muffed the punt, and Casey FitzSimmons was right there to make the recovery.  The Lions failed to move the ball anywhere on offense, but Jason Hanson came out and kicked a 40-yard field goal to at least get Detroit some points for the first time since the game's opening quarter.

4th Quarter

  • The Buccaneers moved the ball into Lions territory thanks to a 40-yard run by Warrick Dunn.  The drive didn't go anywhere after the big run, so Matt Bryant had to come out and kick a 48-yard field goal.  The kick was good, and the Buccaneers led 38-20.
  • Daunte Culpepper came back in at QB for the Lions, as Drew Stanton suffered a concussion on one of the hits he took earlier in the game.  Culpepper took a sack for a loss of 9 yards on the first play of the drive, and that eventually caused them to have to punt.
  • The Buccaneers went three and out, but John Standeford fumbled on the first and only play of the Lions' next drive.  Standeford made a catch for a gain of 18 and had the ball stripped out of his hands.  A Tampa Bay player was right there to make the recovery.
  • Even though they were already in Lions territory, the Buccaneers actually managed to run out the final 7:41 of this game.  Carnell Williams got the ball on nearly every play of the drive and only moved the Bucs down to the 18-yard line.  Jeff Garcia eventually took a knee to run out the clock for good, as there was no need to risk injury for the Bucs. 

As the clock expired and Tampa Bay officially won 38-20, the first thought that came to my mind was how typical of a loss this was for the Lions.  To take a 17-0 lead before ultimately losing 38-20 is just flat out ridiculous, and that's all I can really say about a game like this.  It is simply amazing how bad the Lions played after the first quarter, but then again, that should be expected from a winless team.

The Lions will have to find a way to survive on Thanksgiving against the no longer undefeated Tennessee Titans.  The Titans will be coming into this game angry after the Jets dominated them on Sunday.  The Lions, on the other hand, will be coming into this game with lots of injuries and a still-perfect 0-11 record.  If Detroit can even keep it somewhat respectable it would be a moral victory.

Kickoff for the Lions-Titans game on Thanksgiving is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS.  The game will actually probably be sold out, so those of us that live in the blackout zone will get to watch a Lions home game for a change.

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