Detroit Lions Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One for the Road

Pancho SmithCorrespondent IIDecember 17, 2010

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 12: Will Heller #89 of the Detroit Lions gets between A.J. Hawk #50 and Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers for a fourth quarter touchdown on December 12, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It felt pretty good for a change to be a Lions fan last Sunday after a ragtag gang of second and third string players joined the remnants of Detroit’s original starting lineup and beat Green Bay.

The Packers had every reason to try their best to tame the Lions.

Green Bay began the season with Super Bowl expectations, but instead they entered Ford Field at 8-4 needing a win just to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.

As an added incentive, Green Bay knew the Bears were playing the Patriots later in the day, and like pretty much everyone else, they suspected that Chicago probably wasn’t up to the task of beating a quality team.

So if Chicago were to lose to New England as expected, by beating Detroit the Packers would put themselves in a tie at 9-4 with the Bears going into Week 15.

Green Bay had beaten Detroit the last ten times they met. The Packers’ star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was healthy while Detroit was down to its third string QB, a local guy named Stanton that not many people outside of Michigan had ever heard of before

That’s why Vegas pegged the Lions 6.5 point underdogs.

But Drew Stanton and Detroit surprised almost everyone by flat out beating their worthy cheddar-head division opponent. (Kudos to ESPN analyst Herm Edwards for predicting the upset.)

Detroit won because this team never gives up. They committed very few penalties, did a lot of little things right, and played with more grit and determination than Green Bay did for four full quarters on both sides of the ball.

The Lions finally demonstrated that they are learning what it takes to go up in a close game and then put it away.

For long-suffering Motor City footballs fans, the 7-3 take-away from Green Bay wasn’t ugly. It was a thing of pure and utter beauty.


The Rest of the Monkeys Are Wobbling

Last Sunday’s win over Green Bay broke an epic nineteen game Lions losing streak against division rivals and ended a five year drought against the Packers. (It also halted a five game Detroit skid this year.)

This one victory knocked two big monkeys off Detroit’s back.

The rest of the monkeys still perched on the Lions’ shoulders are wobbling and getting dizzier by the game.


The Next Monkey to Fall

Which NFL team has the worst consecutive road game losing streak ever?

Hint: it’s not the team that the Lions will put on the field for the final three games of this season, because that team can not only end Detroit’s streak of 26 straight road losses, it can win out the rest of the year.


To Win or Not to Win: That’s Not the Question.

Some Detroit fans are concerned that the more games the Lions win at this point of the season, the worse the team’s draft selection position will be next April. These misguided souls seem to think that the key to winning in the future is to lose now.

The problem with that line of thinking is that winning is a habit that can be acquired only by winning. Losing is a habit too, a bad one that the Lions haven’t been able to kick for over fifty years.

You can’t lose your way into becoming a championship team.

The best legacy the 2010 Lions can leave for 2011 Lions would be to win out and establish positive momentum going into next season.

It’s too late in the year for this Lions team to put together a winning record, but they can still shake a lot of ugly monkeys off the team’s back.

With all that weight lifted from their shoulders going into next year, the 2011 Lions would finally be free to focus on looking forward instead of backwards.

The boost that a few more wins this season would provide the Lions would exceed any benefit Detroit could reasonably expect by receiving a somewhat higher first round draft pick if they tanked the last three games.


Stats and Comparisons

The 8-5 Buccaneers have the 21st overall offense and 16th ranked defense in the NFL. 

By comparison, the 3-10 Lions will go into this contest with the 17th best offense and 19th best defense in the league. 

Tampa and Detroit have both beaten St. Louis and Washington this season. However, the Bucs beat each team by a single point, while the Lions mauled the Rams 44-6 and put the Skins away 37-25.

Tampa hasn’t played any of the other teams on Detroit’s schedule this year.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has been very consistent at the helm of a Tampa team that’s in a division dominated Atlanta and New Orleans. He’s big and strong and hard to bring down. Freeman doesn’t make a lot of mistakes because he’s not very aggressive.

Although there’s an outside chance that Shaun Hill will get the start against the Bucs, Freeman will likely be opposed by Drew Stanton, who has one win in three NFL starts.

The rap on Stanton is that he isn’t going to hurt opposing defenses with his arm because he can’t make all the throws.

Maybe that’s true, maybe not.

Stanton has played under three different offensive coordinators in four years with the Lions, and early in his career he missed significant practice time because of injuries. He hasn’t really had the opportunity to demonstrate what he’s capable of accomplishing in the NFL.

However, Stanton is unquestionably a very versatile quarterback. Teams have to respect his legs and scrambling ability. He’s an especially serious threat every time he runs an option play, and his arm is plenty strong enough to punish teams down the field for crowding the box against him.

If Stanton does get the start, it’s worth remembering that you don’t beat teams that run a Tampa 2 defense with a lot of 40 yard passes. Instead, you make them pay for frequent blitzes and prevent coverages by throwing a lot of quick underneath stuff and by running the ball, skills that Stanton clearly possesses.

Drew Stanton is more than capable of putting up enough points to beat the Bucs.

Even better, he has the heart to do it.

Anyone who doubts that didn’t watch Stanton march 80 yards downfield late in the fourth quarter against Green Bay and throw a thirteen yard touchdown pass to Will Heller on a tight end screen play to win the game


The Lions Road to Respectability Runs Through Tampa

The Buccaneers will have home field advantage this Sunday.

Detroit needs some road kills.

Funny how that works out sometimes.

Under head coach Jim Schwartz the Lions are driving out of darkness down the long road to respectability.

Tampa is standing squarely in Detroit’s path.

It’s time to put the pedal to the metal, coach.  

Knock down one for the road.

We’re buying.