Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Bucs-Lions

Tampa Bay and Detroit spent 25 years together in the NFC Central, with plenty of drama, including elimination games in 1981 and 1997...Even the most recent meeting went down to the wire

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Detroit owns a three-game edge in the all-time series but the Bucs have won eight of the last 12
  • Tampa Bay won the only postseason matchup between these two teams, a 20-10 Wild Card decision in 1997
  • The Bucs and Lions spent 25 years together in the old NFC Central but have still been frequent opponents since the 2002 realignment

    Quite a bit of Tampa Bay Buccaneers history has been made with the Detroit Lions on the field. In fact, no other opponent has provided the resistance to whatever quest the Buccaneers were on more often than the men from Motown.

In Week 12 of this season, the Buccaneers went to Chicago to play their 54th game against the Bears. Tampa Bay has also played Detroit 54 times, due mostly to 25 years spent in the old NFC Central, but a postseason meeting between the two teams in 1997 provided a 55th get-together. Now the Bucs are on their way to Detroit again for meeting #56, which will be #55 in the regular season.

With all of that shared history, some drama along the way was inevitable. Even the most recent game between the Buccaneers and Lions was a down-to-the-wire affair, with CB Johnthan Banks snaring a deflected pass near the visitors' goal line with one minute left in a three-point game. More on that below.

Detroit leads the all-time regular-season series, 29-26, although Tampa Bay has prevailed in eight of the last 12 contest. Those 26 wins are the most by the Buccaneers against any opponent. The location of the games hasn't seemed to matter much; the Bucs are 13-14 against the Lions in Tampa and 13-15 against them in Detroit.

During their shared years in the NFC Central (1977-2001), 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.  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 seventh time the teams have met in the last 10 seasons.

Detroit did pull away a little bit in the middle of the 1990s by winning five straight (1994-96), at a time when the great Barry Sanders was often tormenting the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers' franchise turnaround in 1997 changed things a bit, however.  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.

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.

Matchup12_03_14_1_a.jpg

S Kelcie McCray's well-timed hit and CB Johnthan Banks' quick reaction created the game-clinching takeaway last November in Detroit

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 Bucs 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.

More 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.

For a brief moment, it looked like Johnson would be the hero for the third straight time when the Bucs went back to Detroit last year on November 24. The Bucs rode a two-game winning streak into Ford Field, but that had followed eight straight losses to open the season. The Lions, meanwhile, were 6-5 at the time and trying to hold on in the NFC playoff hunt. There would be seven scores in the game, and every single one of them would put the scoring team into the lead. CB Leonard Johnson gave the Bucs a 17-14 lead going into halftime when he intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. Stafford put his team back on top shortly after the intermission, however, with an 18-yard TD pass to TE Brandon Pettigrew. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Bucs QB Mike Glennon found WR Tiquan Underwood open on a deep post behind the defense and hit him for what would be an 85-yard touchdown and a 24-21 advantage for the home team. CB Danny Gorrer blocked Detroit's punt on the next possession but Rian Lindell then missed a 35-yard field goal. Gorrer ended the Lions' next drive with a fumble recovery in Detroit territory, but again the Bucs failed to capitalize with any points. That allowed Stafford and the Lions one more chance to tie or take the lead with four minutes remaining, and Johnson's 21-yard catch put them into field goal range. On third-and-12 from the Bucs' 28, Stafford went for the kill with a pass that found Johnson at the three-yard line. Fortunately, S Kelcie McCray also found Johnson at almost the exact same moment, and the resulting collision dislodged the ball, allowing Banks to swoop in for the clinching pick.

**

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

2013

W, 24-21

Detroit


Overtime* Postseason

Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Detroit Leads, 29-26
  • Bucs' Home Record: 13-14
  • Bucs' Road Record: 13-15
  • Current Streak: Win 1 (2013)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 4 (2001-2005)
  • Lions' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (1994-96)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 960, Lions 1,165
  • 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)
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