Last week, the Lions beat the Packers to snap a 19-game division losing streak. Today in Tampa Bay, the Lions beat the Buccaneers in overtime, 23-20, to end a 26-game road losing streak, which is an NFL record. The win came courtesy of Dave Rayner, who nailed a 34-yard field goal in overtime to give Detroit the walk-off victory. Rayner also made a field goal from 28 yards out to tie the game as time ran out in the fourth quarter. To say the least, it was an exciting victory for the Lions.
Although the Lions needed a comeback at the end to send this game to overtime, it was all Detroit early on. After making a stop, the Lions got the ball and went 68 yards in seven plays and less than four minutes. Detroit moved the ball very effectively and scored when Nate Burleson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. He refused to go down despite having a defender trying to wrap him up and fought his way into the end zone for the score.
In the second quarter, things shifted in favor of the Buccaneers. Mike Williams caught a 24-yard pass for a touchdown to tie things up a few minutes into the quarter, and closer to halftime LeGarrette Blount trucked over a few Detroit defenders en route to a 39-yard touchdown run. The Lions did add a field goal from 41 yards out with a minute left in the half, making this a 14-10 game after 30 minutes of play.
On the Lions' opening drive of the second half, they once again moved the ball very effectively. It helped that Tampa Bay tried playing keep away with Stefan Logan and gave the Lions great field position as a result. This set Detroit up to move the ball both on the ground and through the air, and on the ninth play of the drive Maurice Morris gashed through the Bucs' defense for a 10-yard touchdown run to put Detroit on top, 17-14.
Tampa Bay made a comeback in the fourth quarter, first getting a 30-yard field goal to tie things up at 17. Holding the Buccaneers to a field goal on that drive was actually a victory for the Lions' defense, though. Tampa Bay got the ball down to the Detroit one-yard line but couldn't punch it in for a touchdown. They did appear to score on a pass to Kellen Winslow, but an offensive pass interference penalty negated it and backed Tampa Bay up 10 yards. After the Lions forced an incompletion on third down, the Buccaneers were forced to settle for a field goal.
After the Lions had to punt the ball away, Tampa Bay drove down the field and got into field goal range again rather quickly. Luckily the Lions made a stop after the Bucs got into the red zone and held them to only another field goal. At the rate Tampa Bay was going a touchdown seemed inevitable, but after converting a third and short because of an encroachment penalty on Corey Williams, the Bucs went nowhere. Part of that stemmed from the fact that they played things safe, figuring Connor Barth's 26-yard field goal would be enough to win the game. The Lions used all of their timeouts on this drive, after all, so they had only 1:39 left on the clock to tie things up.
Usually we are used to seeing Drew Stanton work his magic late in preseason games, but today he showed that he still has some saved for the regular season. After leading the Lions down the field a week ago in the fourth quarter for a go-ahead, game-winning touchdown, he led them 58 yards down the field in 10 plays today to set up Rayner's 28-yard kick to tie the game. Stanton did a great job of running the two-minute drill, and Calvin Johnson especially deserves a pat on the back for making an outstanding catch on the sideline to pick up 23 yards and move the Lions into field goal range. Detroit picked up 12 more yards on a pass to Tony Scheffler that gave them one shot at the end zone (a pass to Johnson was batted down), but Johnson's catch was the big play on this drive that allowed Rayner to tie things up as time expired.
Unlike the Jets game, which the Lions lost in overtime after not winning the toss, the coin was on Detroit's side today. Detroit won the toss, got the ball and never looked back. Morris ran for 26 yards on the first play of overtime, and Jahvid Best picked up 14 more right after. Then, on 3rd and 8, Calvin Johnson made another amazing catch on the sideline, somehow keeping his feet inbounds to pick up 12 yards and move the chains. Like the last drive in regulation, this catch put Detroit in field goal range, and after being stopped short on the next third down, Rayner came out and nailed a 34-yarder to give the Lions a 23-20 victory.
For the first time since 2007, the Lions have not only won on the road, but they have also won two straight games. This is their fourth victory of 2010, which doubles the amount of wins they had last season and surpasses the combined total of wins from the last two years. A big reason why Detroit is on this winning streak is Drew Stanton, who played lights out today, completing 23 of 37 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown. Calvin Johnson also had a hell of a game, catching 10 passes for 152 yards. And let's not forget Maurice Morris, who ran the ball 15 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. He contributed in a big way to the Lions' 181 yards rushing and has really improved their running game the last few weeks.
Defensively, the linebackers deserve some love, which isn't something I have been able to say much this season. DeAndre Levy had 11 solo tackles and one pass defense, and his counterpart Julian Peterson had nine tackles. Bobby Carpenter also played well in his first start for the Lions, making three tackles and two pass defenses. Their performance as a unit was surprisingly good today. The defensive line's was not surprising, however. They played well again like usual, as Lawrence Jackson, Sammie Hill and Cliff Avril all had a sack and Ndamukong Suh added two quarterback hits. The defense did give up 403 yards, but when it counted most they made stops and held Tampa Bay to field goals instead of allowing touchdowns, which turned out to be the difference in this game.
Next week, the Lions will be in Florida again to play the 7-7 Miami Dolphins, which lost to Buffalo today and are a dismal 1-6 at home this season. The Lions will look to run their winning streak to three games, which hasn't been done by Detroit since 2007 when they beat Tampa Bay, Chicago and Denver in back-to-back-to-back weeks.
It's unknown who will be the quarterback for the Lions next week, but I personally hope they stick with Drew Stanton. It's not likely that Matthew Stafford will be ready until at least the Minnesota game in two weeks. It's certainly possible Shaun Hill could be healthy enough to play, but I'd prefer they stick with the hot hand in Stanton. I can't believe I'd ever be writing this, but he played very well today and has led the Lions to back-to-back wins. You might as well stick with what's working, especially if Stafford isn't going to be ready to play.