WHERE: Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan
SPREAD: Bucs by 5.0
WHERE THE LIONS STAND:: 0-7 Record. The Lions are in last place in the NFC Central Division.
HEAD COACH: Marty Mornhinweg (0-0 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Marty Mornhinweg
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Vince Tobin
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Chuck Priefer
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers DE Marcus Jones vs. Lions QB Charlie Batch. Batch has struggled a bit in the West Coast offense head coach Marty Mornhinweg implemented when he was hired in the offseason. Part of the reason Batch has struggled is due his offensive line's woes. Batch has been sacked 24 times and the offensive line has allowed 30 this season. Batch has started to play better in this offense, and the Bucs' defensive line will have to pressure him in order to force him into making mistakes. Jones has been quiet since receiving his new contract late last season and has only recorded 15 tackles and two sacks in seven games. Last season, Jones recorded five sacks in two games against the Lions, but has since moved from the right end to the left end position.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 23rd RUSHING: 29th PASSING: 16th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 10th(T) RUSHING: 22nd(T) PASSING: 4th
HOW THE LIONS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 21st RUSHING: 31st PASSING: 7th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 29th RUSHING: 30th PASSING: 25th
RUSHING DILEMNA: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers consider themselves a run-oriented team, but after seven games this season, they are ranked 29th in total running offense. Bucs FB Mike Alstott is averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season while RB Warrick Dunn has been hampered by injuries and has only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Tampa Bay will face Detroit's defense, which is ironically ranked 30th against the run The Lions defense has allowed 197 points this seaosn.
OFFENSIVE LINE WOES: Bucs QB Brad Johnson has been sacked 27 times in seven games this season, which is the most times a QB has been sacked in the NFL. While Johnson has taken some coverage sacks, most of them are due to the offensive line's inability to consistently pass block. RT Jerry Wunsch will be in charge of blocking Lions DE Robert Porcher, who has seven sacks this season. Tampa Bay's offensive line must provide Johnson time to throw in order for their offense to be consistent.
LIONS SEARCHING FOR FIRST WIN OF 2001 SEASON: Detroit is 0-7 this season and still in search of their first win of the season. Two of Tampa Bay's losses this season have come to teams that did not have a win before playing the Bucs. The first game was against the 0-2 Minnesota Vikings and the second game was against the 0-3 Tennessee Titans. Both of these games also came on the road, which is where the Pewter Pirates will be playing this Sunday against the winless Lions.
BUCS DEFENSE MUST CONTAIN STEWART: Lions RB James Stewart is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season, but Detroit has fallen behind their opponents so quickly in games this season that they have had to abandon their running game. Tampa Bay's run defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL and allowed Packers RB Ahman Green to gain 220 all-purpose yards last Sunday.
INTERCEPTION BRIGAGE: Tampa Bay's defense leads the NFL in interceptions with 13 this season. The Buccaneers have a +9 turnover ratio this season, which has been one of the few positives on the defense. Lions QB Charlie Batch has six interceptions this season and backup QB Ty Detmer has thrown eight.
BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
QB Brad Johnson on how last Sunday's loss to the Packers: "You have to have a very short memory in this league," said Johnson. "If you win one, you celebrate for a day and then you move on. If you lose one, it hurts and there's no worse feeling than losing."
Johnson on how the Lions have had the same woes as the Bucs: "They've had some injured players up there and lost to some very good football teams," said 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."
LB Derrick Brooks on how the Bucs plan to rebound from 3-4: "You've got to play them one at a time," said Brooks. "You can't win all nine in one week. We've got to keep our goals short term. We'll keep the focus on Detroit and once we get passed Detroit, we'll move on to the next week."
RB Warrick Dunn on the 0-7 Lions: "They're 0-7 and desperate," said Dunn. "In the first two weeks of the season, they were horrible. But the last two weeks, they have been in every football game."
Dunn on his foot and hamstring injuries: "The only thing I can do right now is rest," said Dunn. "But I can't rest right now. I have to play."
P Mark Royals on the importance of beating 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."
Royals on how dangerous the Lions are: "They're a pretty good 0-7 team," said Royals. "So that makes them even more dangerous for us."
Royals on K Martin Gramatica wanting to attempt a game-winning 68-yard field goal against Green Bay last Sunday: "I wouldn't say Green Bay is conducive for a 68-yard field goal," said Royals. "The field and conditions along with the new balls that are not broken in don't make it appealing."
Bucs head coach Tony Dungy on rebounding from 3-4: "You know it can be done," said Dungy. "We've done it before, but every year is different and we have to go out and start playing well. We know it's not too late. We've got two months left to play and we feel good about our position."
Dungy on the team's need to prepare well: "Our biggest challenge is getting ourselves playing well," said Dungy. "If we're playing well, then to me, it doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing them."
Dungy on having to make something of the season before it's too late: "We've come out of it before because we've made it happen," said Dungy. "And we have to make it happen this year."
Dungy on this Sunday's game against the Lions: "They've (the Lions) fallen behind," said Dungy. "And when they have to throw, you can put some pressure on their passer. You really have to get ahead, and that's not something we've done a hole lot lately."
DT James Cannida on how he's preparing to take on the winless Lions: "I don't' care what their record says," said 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."
FLYNN'S FINAL: Detroit's 0-7 record should be scaring Tampa Bay. The Lions will win a game this season, it's just a matter of when and who they beat. If Tampa Bay has any prayer of making the playoffs this season, they better not allow Detroit to beat them in Pontiac or Tampa.
Although the Lions have been playing better football in their last two games, Tampa Bay should still be able to come away from Detroit with a win. But if the Bucs' offensive line can't run and pass block consistently and their defense allows RB James Stewart to rush for over 100 yards, Tampa Bay will be in severe danger of losing this game.
Detroit has one of the worst defenses in the league, which means Tampa Bay's offense should be able to put up some points on the Lions. Tampa Bay may elect to come out passing to open up their struggling running game.
This game is Detroit's Super Bowl. They are all but eliminated from playoff contention and would love nothing more than to bring down their NFC Central rival with them. Tampa Bay has surrendered wins to the winless Vikings and Titans, and Bucs can only hope three times is the charm for them. With the exception of last season, Tampa Bay has struggled in Detroit. The Bucs are 2-3 in Detroit under Dungy.
Tampa Bay should win this game, but Detroit won't stay winless forever.
FLYNN'S PICK: Lions 20 Bucs 17
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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