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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lions vs. Buccaneers: Drew Stanton Helps Break Detroit's Road Losing Streak

All season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been able to brush aside the NFL's downtrodden -- those teams with losing records -- and grab wins to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. The Bucs came into Sunday's game with the Lions with an 8-0 record against teams with a losing record and 0-5 record against teams with a winning record.

The trend finally got batted down in Raymond James Stadium. 

Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, Detroit's third-string quarterback, took his team down the field for a tying field on the last play of regulation, a 28-yarder by Dave Rayner. Stanton led the Lions deep into Bucs territory in overtime to set up Rayner's 34-yard winner for a 23-20 victory.

The win ended the Lions' 26-game road losing streak. Detroit (4-10) had not won a road game since October 2007. The loss dealt a serious blow to Tampa Bay's playoff hopes, as the Bucs slipped to 8-6.

Some thoughts on the game:

The edge in this game for the Lions was its defensive front against the Tampa Bay rebuilt offensive line. Few teams this season have handled Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman in the pocket the way the Lions did in this game. Freeman squeezed out of some pressure, but he was also sacked three times.

• Stanton was 23 of 37 and was helped along by the terrific play of wideout Calvin Johnson, who had 10 catches for 152 yards.

• The problem for the Lions was the poor play of their linebackers, like DeAndre Levy. The Wisconsin guy kept trying to tackle 250-pound LeGarrette Blount around the shoulders. Levy even ran past Blount on one play and stood there and watched him crash into a teammate, then decided to chase the play. Blount later blew into the second level of the Lions defense on a 39-yard touchdown run.

How many times did the the Lions defensive line put the Bucs in bad shape with sacks and then let the Bucs get out of it with big plays because of the poor tackling by linebackers and secondary?

• The Lions superiority in the trenches showed when the Bucs got the ball to the 1-yard line following a long Blount run. The Bucs tried running plays with Freeman, who is 6-foot-6, and fullback Earnest Graham, and got zero yards.

• On third-and-goal, Freeman lofted a ball to tight end Kellen Winslow, Winslow was called for offensive pass interference. At first, it looked like a good call. But on the replay, the Lions' defensive back appeared to have a firm grip on Winslow just before Winslow caught the ball for an apparent touchdown. The score was wiped off the board. It should have been a no-call.

• After the penalty the Bucs tried to lob it to wide receiver Mike Williams, and he couldn't control the ball. It was a bad play call by the Bucs -- if ever there was a chance for a back-shoulder throw to Williams, that was it. Throw it on a line as he is running down the sideline, let him stop at the 1 and catch it.

• The Lions had an advantage with Johnson and a bulky, hard-running Nate Burleson. The Bucs corners Ronde Barber and E.J. Biggers looked overmatched trying to tackle them one-on-one.

• Did you see that route by Williams on his 24-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter? He went in, then out, then in, and had the DB in knots. Freeman made a nice throw for a touchdown. Just as spectacular was the one-on-one blocking by left tackle Donald Penn -- he handled the right defensive end, it looked like Turk McBride, to give quarterback Josh Freeman all the time he needed.

Later in the game, though, Penn gave up some plays to McBride and Lawrence Jackson.

• The officials need to blow the whistle on these guys rolling into kickers following the extra point. It is going to cost somebody a kicker.

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