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Series History: Bucs-Lions

Posted Nov 20, 2013

When the Bucs and Lions meet on Sunday, it will make Detroit the most common opponent in Tampa Bay franchise history, and it will also rekindle a series that has housed a lot of drama

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sunday's game will be the 55th meeting between the Bucs and Lions, with Detroit holding a 29-25 edge
  • The lone playoff game between Tampa Bay and Detroit was a Bucs win that closed down Tampa Stadium in 1997
  • Detroit has won three of the last four matchups with the Bucs, including ones in 2010 and 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a fellow Florida team in Week 10 and a fellow NFC South squad in Week 11, but their Week 12 trip to Detroit will actually rekindle the series that has been most often contested in franchise history.

The Buccaneers have played the Lions 54 times, more so than even their current division mates of Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans.  That is, of course, because Tampa Bay and Detroit shared the old NFC Central for 25 years, from 1977 to 2001.  The Buccaneers have also played the Chicago Bears, another former "Black-and-Blue Division" denizen, 54 times, but their series with the Lions will take the lead this weekend.  Even since the two clubs parted ways during the 2002 NFL realignment, with Tampa Bay leaving for the more geographically-natural NFC South and the remaining four Central teams rebranding as the North, the Bucs and Lions haven't been strangers.  In fact, Sunday's game at Ford Field will mark the sixth time the teams have met in the last nine seasons.

Detroit leads that all-time series, 29-25, widening the lead by winning three of the last four, including games at Raymond James Stadium in 2010 and 2011. Before that run, Tampa Bay had won the previous four meetings, and six of the previous seven.  During their shared years in the NFC Central, the series was pretty even throughout; it was 5-5 after the first 10 games, 11-11 after the first 22, 15-15 after the first 30, and so on.  Detroit did pull away a little bit in the first half of the 190s by winning five straight, at a time when the great Barry Sanders was often tormenting the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers' breakthrough in 1997 changed things a bit.  Not only did the Bucs snap that five-game skid with a 24-17 win in Detroit, but the two teams met again in the playoffs, as Tampa Bay broke a 15-year playoff drought.  The Buccaneers got their first playoff victory in 18 years when the Lions visited for a Wild Card matchup in Tampa – the last game ever played at Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium – and the home team easily rolled to a 20-10 victory.  RB Warrick Dunn and FB Mike Alstott combined for 140 rushing yards and Alstott's 31-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Bucs a 20-0 lead that was enough to send them to the next round of the playoffs at the home of yet another NFC Central team, the Green Bay Packers.

-- Warrick Dunn and Barry Sanders were prominently featured in some big Bucs-Lions games
Even though that's the only time Tampa Bay and Detroit have met in the postseason, it wasn't the first time they played what was essentially an elimination game.  The Buccaneers visited Detroit in the final week of the 1981 regular season, with each team owning an 8-7 record.  The winner would take the NFC Central crown and a playoff berth; the loser would be eliminated.  The Buccaneers won, 20-17, keyed by an 84-yard Kevin House touchdown catch and a 21-yard fumble return by DT David Logan after a sack by DE Lee Roy Selmon.

The situation was very similar a year later when the Bucs and Lions matched up in Tampa in the penultimate week of the regular season.  Due to a players' strike that shaved seven games out of the middle of the season, the Bucs and Lions were each 3-4 with two games to go.  Tampa Bay rallied from a 21-6 deficit to win 23-21, then won again the next weekend against Chicago to sneak into the playoffs.  This time, however, the Lions also won their last game and made the playoffs, too, at 4-5.

The Bucs and Lions were rarely in playoff contention at the same time in the next decade and a half, until that memorable 1997 season.  Two years later, both teams were 8-4 heading into the last quarter of the 1999 season, and that set up a dramatic Week 14 visit by the Lions to Raymond James Stadium.  Tampa Bay had lost QB Trent Dilfer to a shoulder injury two weeks earlier and rookie Shaun King was at the helm in just his second NFL start.  After the team fell behind early, Alstott scored once on a one-yard run and again on a 22-yard pass from King to complete a comeback victory.  The Bucs would win eight of their last nine games to take the division crown while the Lions would lose each of their last four and back into a short-lived playoff appearance at 8-8.

The Lions were in a tough stretch at the time of the 2002 realignment, and they brought a 3-10 record into Tampa in Week 15 to face a Bucs team that was trying to lock down a first-round playoff bye.  Detroit was missing four offensive starters coming into the game, and then lost QB Joey Harrington to an irregular heartbeat in the first quarter, but backup Mike McMahon led a comeback that was capped by his own two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.  The Bucs had to follow with a rally of their own to set Martin Gramatica up for a 38-yard game-winner in a 23-20 decision that clinched a playoff spot for the Buccaneers.

Most recently, Detroit has come out on top in a pair of very tight games that were separated by only a few other games on the teams' 2010-11 calendars.  Detroit visited Tampa in Week 15 of the 2010 season and won a 23-20 overtime decision that was part of a four-game winning streak to end the season after a 2-10 start.  The Bucs had taken a 20-17 lead with 1:39 left in that contest but WR Calvin Johnson's falling 23-yard catch at the Bucs' 22 – part of a 152-yard day for Johnson – set up the game-tying field goal.  Detroit won it five minutes into overtime on Dave Rayner's 34-yard kick.  The following season opened with a Bucs-Lions rematch, and this time the Bucs couldn't quite complete a comeback during regulation, falling 27-20.  Johnson had another 88 yards and two scores to lead the Lions to that win.

**

Bucs-Lions Game-by-Game Record:

Season

Result

Site

1977

L, 16-7

Detroit

1978

L, 15-7

Tampa

1978

L, 34-23

Detroit

1979

W, 31-16

Tampa

1979

W, 16-14

Detroit

1980

L, 24-10

Tampa

1980

L, 27-14

Detroit

1981

W, 28-10

Tampa

1981

W, 20-17

Detroit

1982

W, 23-21

Tampa

1983

L, 11-0

Tampa

1983

L, 23-20

Detroit

1984

W, 21-17

Tampa

1984

L, 13-7*

Detroit

1985

L, 30-9

Detroit

1985

W, 19-16

Tampa

1986

W, 24-20

Detroit

1986

L, 38-17

Tampa

1987

W, 31-27

Detroit

1987

L, 20-10

Tampa

1988

W, 23-20

Detroit

1988

W, 21-10

Tampa

1989

L, 17-16

Tampa

1989

L, 33-7

Detroit

1990

W, 38-21

Detroit

1990

W, 23-20

Tampa

1991

L, 31-3

Detroit

1991

W, 30-21

Tampa

1992

W, 27-23

Detroit

1992

L, 38-7

Tampa

1993

W, 27-10

Tampa

1993

L, 23-0

Detroit

1994

W, 24-14

Tampa

1994

L, 14-9

Detroit

1995

L, 27-24

Detroit

1995

L, 37-10

Tampa

1996

L, 21-6

Detroit

1996

L, 27-0

Tampa

1997

W, 24-17

Detroit

1997

L, 27-9

Tampa

1997

W, 20-10

Tampa**

1998

L, 27-6

Detroit

1998

L, 28-25

Tampa

1999

L, 20-3

Detroit

1999

W, 23-16

Tampa

2000

W, 31-10

Detroit

2000

L, 28-14

Tampa

2001

W, 20-17

Detroit

2001

W, 15-12

Tampa

2002

W, 23-20

Detroit

2005

W, 17-13

Tampa

2007

L, 23-16

Detroit

2008

W, 38-20

Detroit

2010

L, 23-20*

Tampa

2011

L, 27-20

Tampa


* Overtime
** Postseason

Series Notes:
  • Overall Season Series: Detroit Leads, 29-25
  • Bucs' Home Record: 13-14
  • Bucs' Road Record: 12-15
  • Current Streak: Lose 2 (2010-11)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 4 (2001-2005)
  • Lions' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (1994-96)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 936, Lions 1,144
  • Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Buccaneers 38-20 (2008)
  • Most Points in a Game, Lions: Lions 38-7 (1992)
  • Most Points, both teams: Buccaneers 38-21 (1990)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Lions 27-0 (1996)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Lions: Buccaneers 31-10 (2004)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: Lions 11-0 (1983)