WR Ike Hilliard scored the second of the Bucs' three second-quarter touchdowns on a 36-yard catch on third-and-13
At the conclusion of the first quarter, a frustrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers team trailed the winless Detroit Lions 17-0. After the last seconds ticked off the clock in the second quarter, however, the emotions were much different as the Bucs had stormed all the way back to take a 21-17 halftime lead in Detroit.
The Bucs' defense shut downs the Lions on their first possession of the game, highlighted by a 14-yard sack by DE Jimmy Wilkerson on third-and-nine. The Bucs' offense enjoyed little success of its own on its first possession, however, going three-and-out and also giving up a sack on third down.
Detroit jumped out to the early lead on its next drive behind two outstanding grabs by second-year superstar wideout Calvin Johnson. Johnson made an excellent catch down the left sideline with two defenders in the area for a 41-yard gain, and two plays later jumped high in the air to bring down another pass from QB Daunte Culpepper in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. With the extra point, the Lions led 7-0.
The Lions tacked on another touchdown moments later, this time courtesy of their defense. Bucs QB Jeff Garcia and RB Cadillac Williams collided in the backfield, popping the ball free from Garcia's grasp. Lions S Daniel Bullocks scooped up the loose ball and ran untouched 44 yards for a touchdown. The extra point extended Detroit's lead to 14-0.
After another quick three-and-out from the Bucs, the Lions tacked on three more points. A 26-yard run up the middle by rookie RB Kevin Smith put Detroit into Bucs' territory, and K Jason Hanson booted a 38-yard field goal soon after that made it 17-0 in favor of the Lions.
The Bucs were able to cut into the Lions' lead early in the second quarter on a seven play, 50-yard drive, as shifty RB Warrick Dunn spun and darted his way into the end zone from 13 yards out with 11:19 left in the second quarter. K Matt Bryant's extra point made it 17-7 Lions.
Another long scoring play allowed the Bucs to narrow the gap even further. After a running play went for a loss and a sack moved the Bucs back two more yards after they had moved into Detroit territory, the Bucs faced a third-and-13 situation at the Lions' 36. But Garcia was able to shift in the pocket, step up and loft a pass deep down the middle of the field to WR Ike Hilliard, who had sprung free behind the Detroit coverage. The long touchdown pass and ensuing extra point capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive and cut the Lions lead to 17-14.
As has been the case all year, the Bucs' defense helped put points on the board as the Bucs completed the first-half comeback and took the lead. CB Ronde Barber's first interception of the year set the offense up at the Lions' 24, and Garcia hit TE Jerramy Stevens down the seam for a touchdown on the very first play of the drive. The extra point gave the Bucs the 21-17 lead with three minutes left in the half.
That proved to be the end of the scoring for the half as the Bucs headed to the locker room holding a four-point lead. In the half, the Bucs outgained the Lions 167 to 131, led by Garcia's 11-of-15 performance for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Dunn paced the Bucs' running backs, carrying seven times for 42 yards and a score, while Hilliard's two catches for 51 yards and a touchdown led the team.
- The Lions won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. RB Aveion Cason fielded K Matt Bryant's kick and brought it out to the Detroit 27-yard line. RB Kevin Smith took a handoff on first down and was smacked down after a gain of three yards. The Bucs got excellent pressure on QB Daunte Culpepper on second down, forcing him to overthrow his target down the left sideline incomplete. Facing third-and-seven, Culpepper had much more time to throw and found WR Shaun McDonald for a gain of 17 and a first down. Smith was swallowed up on a carry to the left for a loss of two, then picked up three yards on second down to make it third-and-nine. On the play, DE Jimmy Wilkerson burst through the line and sacked Culpepper for a 14-yard loss. P Nick Harris' 36-yard punt was fair caught by RB Clifton Smith at the Bucs' 30-yard line. * On first down, RB Warrick Dunn took a handoff to the left and ducked ahead for a gain of two, then picked up another five yards on second down. On third-and-three, QB Jeff Garcia was sacked by DE Corey Smith for a loss of 10, bringing P Josh Bidwell onto the field. Bidwell's 54-yard boot was returned 10 yards by McDonald to the Detroit 29-yard line. * RB Rudi Johnson got the call on first down, taking a handoff ahead for a gain of two. On second down, Culpepper was flushed from the pocket to his right and scrambled out of bounds after picking up three yards. On third-and-five, Culpepper was able to sidestep the rush and convert, hitting TE Casey Fitzsimmons for a gain of eight yards. On the ensuing first down play, WR Calvin Johnson made an amazing grab with two defenders in the area down the left sideline for a gain of 41. With the ball now at the Bucs' 17, Rudi Johnson got another handoff and picked up two. Culpepper was pressured again on second down and forced to throw the ball away incomplete. On third-and-eight, Culpepper threw high for Calvin Johnson and once again, he skied into the air to snag the ball for a 15-yard touchdown. K Jason Hanson's extra point was good, giving the Lions the early 7-0 lead. * Smith fielded the kickoff and returned it to the Bucs' 29-yard line. Garcia found TE Jerramy Stevens on first down for a gain of five, then threw a quick screen to WR Antonio Bryant who sprinted ahead for 15 yards and a first down as the Bucs moved into Detroit territory at the 49. On the next play, some apparent miscommunication caused Garcia to bump into RB Cadillac Williams and lose the ball, which was promptly scooped up by S Daniel Bullocks and returned 44 yards for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-0 in favor of the Lions. * Smith fielded the ensuing kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Bucs' 26-yard line. Williams took a handoff on first down and burrowed up the middle for a gain of four. Williams got the call again on second down, but was wrapped up for a loss of six on a pitch to the right. Facing third-and-12, Garcia looked for Stevens to the right flat, but the pass was dropped, forcing the Bucs to punt once again. Bidwell's short punt bounced out of bounds at the Lions' 44-yard line. * Culpepper fired a short pass to McDonald on first down that went for a gain of four. Smith found a huge seam up the middle on a second down draw play that picked up 26 yards. Now at the Bucs' 26, Smith took another carry to the left and gained four yards. The Bucs were able to sniff out Smith's next handoff and hold him to a gain of just two. Facing third-and-four at the 20, Culpepper was hit as he threw and the pass fell incomplete. Hanson came on to attempt a 38-yard field goal and the kick was good, making it 17-0 Lions. * Smith tallied a very nice return on the kickoff, sprinting ahead for 49 yards to set the Bucs up at midfield. Garcia's pass on first down was deflected at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete as the first quarter drew to a close. On second down, Garcia dumped off a short pass to Dunn who ran ahead for a gain of nine. Facing third-and-one, Williams took a handoff to the left and picked up just enough to move the chains. On first down, Garcia hit Bryant over the middle for five yards, then Dunn took a pitch to the right and gained six more yards for another first down. Now at the Lions' 28, Garcia hit WR Ike Hilliard over the middle, and Hilliard was able to turn up the field for 15 yards, moving the Bucs inside the red zone to the Detroit 13. Dunn then did the work himself, spinning and juking all the way to the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown run. The extra point cut Detroit's lead to 17-7. * Cason recorded a nice return of his own on the ensuing kickoff, picking up 32 yards to set the Lions up at their own 40. The Bucs flushed Culpepper out of the pocket to his right on first down, but he was able to get a pass off over the middle that fell incomplete. Smith then got a handoff on second down and danced around a Bucs defender in the backfield before diving ahead to get back to the line of scrimmage for no gain. On third-and-10, Wilkerson notched his second sack of the day, this time for a loss of ten. Smith fielded Harris' booming 52-yard punt and brought it back to the Bucs' 31-yard line. * On first down, Garcia dumped a short pass over the middle to Dunn for a gain of two, but fired incomplete on a quick pass to Bryant on second down. Facing third-and-eight at the 33, Garcia was able to connect with Bryant on an in route that went for a gain of 10 and a first down. Dunn dove ahead up the middle for two yards, then caught a pass from Garcia for five more yards. On third-and-three, Garcia shifted in the pocket before finding a wide-open Dunn to the right for 17 yards and another first down. Williams then took a pitch to the left but lost his footing and a yard in the process. On second-and-11 from the Detroit 34, Garcia succumbed to the blitz and was spun down by DT Chuck Darby for a loss of two. Facing third-and-13, Garcia moved up in the pocket and lofted a pass to a wide-open Hilliard down the middle of the field for a 36-yard touchdown. Bryant's extra point narrowed the gap to 17-14. * Cason fielded the kickoff at his own nine and brought it out to the Lions' 24-yard line. Before the Lions could even get their drive going, a false start penalty backed them up five yards. Now facing first-and-15, Culpepper was able to avoid the rush the first time, but excellent pursuit by DE Gaines Adams allowed him to tally a sack from behind for a loss of two. On second-and-17, Smith took an inside handoff that went for a gain of just one. On third-and-17, CB Ronde Barber tallied his first interception of the year. Barber had tight coverage on McDonald and made an excellent break on the ball, snatching it away for the pick. * Taking over at the Lions' 24, the Bucs wasted no time. Garcia found a wide-open Stevens down the seam for a touchdown, and the extra point put the Bucs on top 21-17. * Cason returned the next kickoff 22 yards to the Lions' 27. Smith found a seam on a run to the right on first down and was tripped up after gaining 11 yards. Culpepper's pass on the next first down play was deflected at the line by Adams and fell incomplete. On second, Smith found another huge hole up the middle, picking up 14 more yards and another first down as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. The Bucs challenged the ruling after it appeared Smith had fumbled the ball at the end of the carry, but the call on the field was upheld and the Lions maintained possession at the Bucs' 48-yard line. Before the first down play, a false start moved the Lions back, making it first-and-15. Culpepper then took a quarterback draw up the middle and gained three yards. The Lions then burned their first timeout of the half. On the second down play, Culpepper felt the heat on a blitz from LB Cato June and was forced to throw incomplete after rolling right. Facing third-and-12, Culpepper threw to McDonald, who made an amazing grab as he fell to the turf that would have picked up a first down. A holding penalty negated the play, however, moving the Lions back 10 yards. Now staring at third-and-22 from the Detroit 40, Culpepper rolled left before throwing deep for Johnson, but S Sabby Piscitelli leapt high in the air to knock the ball away and force a punt. Hilliard fair caught Harris' punt at the Bucs' 25. * Garcia tried to set up a screen pass on first down but the pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Dunn then took two consecutive handoffs that netted 14 yards as the teams headed to the locker room for halftime.