Lions 28, Bucs 14

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Detroit Lions keep finding ways to win.

James Stewart ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns and Jason Hanson kicked two field goals Thursday night as the Lions came from behind to beat the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-14.

The victory gave Detroit (5-2) a split of the season series against their NFC Central rivals, who have lost four straight since dominating the Lions 31-10 at the Silverdome on Sept. 17.

The Bucs (3-4) began the season with three consecutive victories, but inconsistency on offense and uncharacteristic mistakes on defense and special teams have contributed to the team's first four-game losing streak since it started 0-5 in 1996 — Tony Dungy's first season as coach.

Tampa Bay led 8-0 before falling apart, finishing with a costly fumble, three interceptions. It gave Detroit an opening to get back in the game when Nate Webster blocked a punt and Ronde Barber couldn't recover in the end zone for a touchdown and the Bucs settled for a safety and the 8-0 lead.

Stewart scored on runs of 4, 4 and 1 yards, the last two coming in the final 4:28 when the Lions pulled away from a 14-14 tie. Hanson kicked field goals of 32 and 47 yards, while Charlie Batch was 13-of-31 for 144 yards and no interceptions.

The Lions began the night ranked 22nd in offense and 29th in defense, but had a winning record because they did a good of protecting the ball. Tampa Bay sacked Batch seven times, but didn't force any turnovers.

Martin Gramatica kicked field goals of 27, 43, 50 and 55 yards for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs defense failed to hold fourth-quarter leads in two of Tampa Bay's first three losses and penalties and mistakes on special teams helped the Lions stay in the game despite being dominated much of the opening half.

After driving for field goals on their first two possessions, the Bucs squandered an opportunity to go up 13-0 when Webster blocked John Jett's punt but Barber couldn't get control of the loose ball for a touchdown.

The ball slipped from the safety's grasp three times before teammate John McLaughlin tried to fall on it in the end zone only to fall awkwardly and leave the ball exposed for Detroit's Ron Rice to recover for the safety.

Things got worse for the Bucs when Mike Alstott fumbled on Tampa Bay's next play. Rice recovered, setting up Hanson's 32-yard field goal on a drive the defense had to a chance to turn back when Brian Kelly dropped what should have been a third-down interception.

Trailing 11-3, the Lions drove 70 yards in 12 plays to tie the score just before the half on Stewart's touchdown and 2-point conversion run. Bryant Westbrook's interception and 16-yard return to the Tampa Bay 19 led to Hanson's field goal that put Detroit ahead 14-11 with 11:29 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bucs offense sputtered after outgaining the Lions 107-28 in the opening quarter. The Bucs only managed one first down in the next two quarters and didn't come close to scoring until Gramatica's 55-yard field goal set the stage for Detroit's game-winning drive.

Shaun King was 17-of-33 for 149 yards and three interceptions for Tampa Bay. Keyshawn Johnson had six receptions for 79 yards.