"We have to beat this team," said Bucs DE Simeon Rice. "There's a sense of urgency because of the situation. They're going to be amped up and ready to go, but we're going to have to put on our hardhats and going into this situation in a serious manner."
Detroit head coach Marty Mornhinweg introduced the West Coast offense to the team in the offseason and part of the reason the Lions are still searching for their first win this year is because they have struggled to get a grasp on it.
While struggling to learn the new offense, the Lions have fallen behind their opponents early in games and have been forced to abandon their rushing attack, which is ranked 30th in the league. But Lions RB James Stewart is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season and could present problems for Tampa Bay's run defense, which is ranked 22nd in the NFL.
"We have to stop the run," said Rice. "We have to make a team one dimensional so we can aid ourselves in the things we do well, like putting pressure on the quarterback and getting interceptions.
"He's (Stewart) going to run all four quarters. He's a fighter and presents problems. But we need to be focused on the things we need to do, like stopping the run and then getting after the passing game. The run has to be stopped right out of the gate to make this team one dimensional so we can take advantage of some of their weak points."
Injuries have also plagued the Lions. Their receiving corps were diminished after wide receivers Germane Crowell and Herman Moore suffered season-ending injuries earlier this season. In many ways, Tampa Bay can relate to Detroit's woes. After all, they have both lost close games and both have records under .500 .
"They've had some injured players up there and lost to some very good football teams," said Bucs QB Brad Johnson. "They've lost a couple of heartbreakers along the line as most teams have, but you'd expect them to be playing a little better football than they have."
So, what makes Detroit so dangerous? Well, they'd certainly love nothing more than to take Tampa Bay, who is their division rival, down with them this season. Detroit has also lost their last three games by a total of only 14 points.
"They're 0-7 and desperate," said Bucs RB Warrick Dunn. "In the first two weeks of the season, they were horrible. But the last two weeks, they have been in every football game."
Buccaneers P Mark Royals concurred with Dunn's comments.
"They're a pretty good 0-7 team," said Royals. "So that makes them even more dangerous for us."
But the consensus among the players in the locker room at One Buc Place on Wednesday is they need to focus more on what their record is and what they're doing and not put so much emphasis on Detroit's 0-7 record.
"The emphasis is the same whether they are winless or undefeated," said Bucs LB Derrick Brooks. "It's about us. We have to play better. That's how we've gotten out of these holes we've dug in the past. Everybody has to play better individually, therefore, the team plays better. And that started Monday."
Under head coach Tony Dungy, the Buccaneers have posted a record of 2-3 in Detroit against the Lions. But Detroit is 0-3 at home in the Pontiac Silverdome this season, so that should improve Tampa Bay's chances of winning, right?
"I don't' care what their record says," said Bucs DT James Cannida. "I'm going to watch film on them and prepare hard. Detroit is not a bad team, especially is they get their running game going."
Tampa Bay is 3-4 and trailing the first place Chicago Bears by three games. They cannot afford to lose to Detroit, but at the same time, history suggests the Lions are going to win a game sooner or later. Ironically, the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers posted a 0-14 record and are one of the few teams to ever go without a win in a season.. Not only do the Pewter Pirates have to face the winless Lions this Sunday, they will meet again at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 9.
The fact that two of Tampa Bay's four losses this season came to teams which did not have a win until they defeated the Buccaneers is disturbing to say the least. The Minnesota Vikings were 0-2 when they picked up their first win in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, and the Tennessee Titans were 0-3 when they defeated the Bucs on Oct. 14. The Bucs suffered both of those losses on the road, and that has the Buccaneers putting emphasis on kicking Detroit while they are down.
"Why not (kick them while they're down)," asked Rice. "If it's not going to happen to them, then it's definitely going to happen to us. So, it's better them than us."
If the Buccaneers are to turn their season around, they know it will have to start in Detroit.
"We're 3-4 and we're in a hole," said Royals. "We don't like to be here, but we've been there before. What matters from this point on is our last nine games and it starts with Detroit. They're a very dangerous team. They're 0-7 and have nothing to lose. They're going to come at us with everything. We've got to get ready for it and I think we will be ready because everybody is still very sour about the Green Bay game. It all starts this Sunday."
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