Game Day: Bucs (7-3) at Detroit (0-10)

52nd regular-season meeting. The Lions lead the series 27-24. The Bucs have won six of the past eight meetings, but Detroit defeated Tampa Bay 23-16 at Ford Field last season.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) at Detroit Lions (0-10)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/23/08
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, Tony Boselli, Charissa Thompson)
SERIES: 52nd regular-season meeting. The Lions lead the series 27-24. The Bucs have won six of the past eight meetings, but Detroit defeated Tampa Bay 23-16 at Ford Field last season.

PREDICTION: Bucs 20-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bucs' passing game is reliant on QB Jeff Garcia's mobility and moving the chains with underneath passes. They don't stretch the field well, but Tampa Bay's receivers will have a chance to make plays after the catch because Detroit has been prone to poor tackling in the secondary. With RB Earnest Graham out for the season, Warrick Dunn assumes the feature role and FB B.J. Askew should see more short-yardage work. ... As long as the Lions don't turn the ball over, the Bucs won't run away and hide with this one. Detroit can keep it close if rookie RB Kevin Smith continues to get consistent touches. He has 208 rushing yards on 4.4 yards per carry the past two games. With QB Daunte Culpepper still learning the playbook in just his third game with the team, it didn't help that WRs Calvin Johnson and Mike Furrey weren't able to participate in the full week of practice.

Key Injuries: Bucs: RB Cadillac Williams is considered a long shot to be active as he works his way back into playing shape. Lions: Furrey (concussion) is uncertain; Johnson (thigh) will play; S Dwight Smith (foot) could return after missing four games.

Need to know: Garcia has a 104.3 passer rating in three career starts against Detroit. ... The Lions are the only team officially eliminated from playoff contention.

PERSONNEL NEWS
Bucs:

  • QB Brian Griese did not practice Thursday because of tendonitis in his elbow.
  • S Jermaine Phillips is recovering from a broken left forearm and was limited in practice Thursday.
  • RB Noah Herron is expected to see action on special teams Sunday at Detroit.
  • RB Cadillac Williams took scout squad reps Thursday and could be inactive at Detroit.
  • RB Clifton Smith spent time after practice working on ball security. He has fumbled in each of the past three games.
  • TE Alex Smith has an ankle sprain and did not practice Thursday.

    Lions:

  • S Dwight Smith returned to practice Wednesday and Thursday after missing four games with a mid-foot sprain. Though he was limited both days, the Lions hope he will be able to play Sunday.
  • WR Calvin Johnson did not practice Wednesday because of a bruised thigh, but he was upgraded to limited Thursday. He will play Sunday.
  • WR Mike Furrey did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a concussion after missing last week and Sunday's game at Carolina. But he did some running and felt better Thursday. If he had no symptoms Friday, he might practice. If he does that and feels good Saturday, he might play Sunday.
  • DT Chuck Darby did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday. He has been nursing a calf injury and should play.
  • RB Rudi Johnson did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday because of a knee injury. He should be able to play.
  • G Edwin Mulitalo did not practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday because of a knee injury. It appears he will play.
  • C Dominic Raiola did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a hand injury. He is still waiting for a special brace for his broken right thumb. Once he gets it, he will try snapping.
  • CB Keith Smith did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a groin injury. He said he would try to run Friday. He likely won't play Sunday but is pushing hard to play on Thanksgiving.
  • DE Dewayne White did not practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a calf injury. He likely will need another week.

    INSIDE THE CAMPS
    BUCCANEERS:

         Receiver Joey Galloway has been the Bucs' leading receiver the past three seasons, with more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three years. He also led all Tampa Bay receivers in touchdowns during that stretch. Galloway missed five games with what the Bucs said was a foot sprain. But Galloway has now revealed that he actually had a fracture.

         In a way, Galloway was made to look soft by Jon Gruden, who kept calling him 'the White Tiger' for his rare appearances. But in fact, the Bucs wanted teams to prepare for Galloway even though they knew he couldn't play.

         Now healthy, Galloway can't find his way on the field. Jon Gruden has fallen in love with Antonio Bryant, who moved to Galloway's split end spot in Week 3. Because Bryant and Michael Clayton are playing well, Gruden can't find a way to get Galloway on the field.

         Galloway has four catches for 60 yards in the last three games, none against the Vikings last Sunday.

         Clayton said it's ironic because Galloway is the one who kept him going when he was the forgotten man. I talked to Jon Gruden who said, "I have a hard time taking No. 89 off the field and No. 80 is doing very well at the same time. I'm going to do a better job, the best I can, to be fair and get everybody on the field."

         "I'm sure it is tough on him," Gruden said of Galloway's new role. "It's been tough on us. We've had to make a lot of adjustments, not only at running back but in our receiving corps. But he plays the same position that Antonio Bryant plays and he can't deny the fact that Antonio is playing great. Not good, he's playing really outstanding football. They're kind of stacked at the same position. We're trying our best to utilize them both and we'll continue to do that.

         "But Mike Clayton is having a solid year," Gruden said. "His statistics may not say so, but put the tape on. He's really playing well, as is Ike Hilliard. Joey missed a lot of time late last season, missed a lot of the preseason -- all the preseason -- he missed five or six games. We're in the process of doing the best we can to use everybody."

         When asked Thursday if Galloway's injury was more serious than he portrayed, Gruden said, "It was a six-week injury. I don't know how you portray anything. It was a six-week injury. I'll let him answer those questions. All I know is we play Detroit Sunday."

    DETROIT LIONS:

         After 50 straight sellouts at Ford Field, the Lions have a new streak -- three blackouts in a row.

         The Lions failed to sell out Sunday's game against Tampa Bay before Thursday's 1 p.m. deadline. They still had almost 7,000 tickets left.

         Even worse, their showcase event, the Thanksgiving Day game, a Detroit tradition since the 1930s, isn't sold out. The Lions won't give a number of tickets left until next week. Apparently people don't want to see the Lions, now winless, face Tennessee, now undefeated.

         Fans are fed up with a team that is 0-10 this season, 1-17 in its past 18 games and 31-91 since 2001.

         Those who have come to Ford Field this season have seen the Lions play worse at home than on the road. The Lions are 0-4 at home with an average margin of defeat of 20.5 points. They're 0-6 on the road with an average margin of defeat of 8.8 points.

         "There's not a reason," said coach Rod Marinelli, who was 5-3 at Ford Field last season. "It's surprising, because we were very good at home last year. So we've got to change that, and it's still football, and we've got great fans, and we've got to go out and execute. That's the bottom line."

         Part of it might be a vicious cycle. The Lions play poorly, so the fans don't come. The fans don't come, so the Lions play poorly. The atmosphere at Ford Field has been awful lately.

         At the Lions' last home game, a 38-14 loss to Jacksonville on Nov. 9, the announced attendance was 52,631, the lowest for a Lions game at Ford Field since the stadium opened in 2002. For most of the afternoon, it was silent. In the fourth quarter, only a few fans remained.

         "It was definitely empty and quiet," left tackle Jeff Backus said. "It's just the way it is right now with our record and what we're doing on the field. People have better things to spend their money on than tickets right now."

         Wide receiver Mike Furrey just wants to win with three straight home games coming up.

         "Obviously everybody's going to say we haven't played good at home, but we're trying to play as well at home as we are away," Furrey said. "Hopefully this is the week. You hope every week is the week. We're going to try to give it everything we've got this weekend and try to finish a little bit better."

         Asked why the Lions hadn't played well at home, Furrey joked: "The temperature's not right. It's a little too warm."

         Ford Field is indoors.

         "It doesn't matter," Furrey continued. "Home or away, it's a football field. It's 100 yards. There's no difference if you're home or away. It's still a football game."

         What about the atmosphere?

         "Well, you ever been on the road and walked into the battlegrounds where people are cussing at you and throwing stuff at you?" Furrey said. "What's the difference? Here there are a lot more people who are going to support you. Just because they black out, the people who still go to the games support us. ...

         "There's no excuses. There's no reasons. There's purposes or why of what's going on or how we're going to change it. We've just got to go out and continue to fight and get better week to week and quit worrying about excuses right now."


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