S John Lynch wants to stop the Lions' streak dead in its tracks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans likely have fond memories of their team's rousing 20-10 Wild Card playoff victory over Detroit after the 1997 season. Since that landmark game, however, the Lions have defeated the Buccaneers three straight times, something no other team in the rugged NFC Central has been able to accomplish. In fact, Tampa Bay has lost four straight regular season games against the Lions, a stumble the Buccaneers are hard-pressed to explain but determined to correct.
"We've tried to put our finger on why we've been unsuccessful against Detroit," said S John Lynch. "Eventually, we came to the conclusion that it's not one thing; we just haven't played our game against them."
That held true this past Halloween, when the Buccaneers dropped a prime-time 20-3 decision in Detroit. However, Tampa Bay has certainly played its game since, winning five straight behind a stingy and turnover-minded defense, a grinding running game and big-play potential in the passing attack. Thus, Tampa Bay's latest crack at the Lions is also a shot at sole possession of first place in the division.
Nevertheless, Detroit's current run against the Bucaneers remains puzzling. The Lions won just five games in 1998 but swept their two-game set with Tampa Bay. Detroit has averaged 25.5 points per game in that four-game stretch, scoring 27 or more three times. In that same time span, the Bucs have played 34 games against other opponents and only allowed 27 or more points five times. In fact, Tampa Bay has been the toughest team in the NFL to score on from 1997 through 1999.
"That's a tough one to figure out," said Lynch of the Bucs' recent Lion problems. "You have to give a lot of credit to them…they've played us very well. In the past, we would sometimes just get buried by (now-retired RB) Barry Sanders, but now you just have to say that they are a very good team."
Lynch is considering the question, of course, because it was brought to his attention by the media. Neither the Bucs' Pro Bowl safety or his defensive teammates are spending too much time worrying about the past. "We're just relishing in the playoff run right now," said Lynch. "This game is big in that way. You have to win your division games."
Until this recent trend – the Bucs have lost nine of their last 10 regular season games against Detroit since midway through 1994 – Tampa Bay had actually fared better against the Lions than they had against any other team in the NFC Central. A 24-14 victory by the Bucs' 1994 squad (10/2/94) gave the Buccaneers a momentary 17-16 lead in the all-time series with Detroit before the Lions began their current tear with a 14-9 win later that year in Detroit (11/13/94).