TAMPA, Florida, Reuters
James Stewart ran for three touchdowns and Detroit forced four turnovers as the Lions withstood a ferocious Tampa Bay defence to post a 28-14 victory over the struggling Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Stewart rushed for 116 yards on 29 attempts, including a four-yard touchdown with 408 left that snapped a 14-14 tie and a one-yard TD run with two minutes left that sealed the win.
Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch suffered seven sacks by the relentless Tampa Bay pass pass rush. But the Lions had such an advantage in time of possession, especially after the first quarter, that they eventually wore out the Bucs defence.
“If we could stay in there, we thought we could run the ball. And when we kept pounding, we wore them down,” said Stewart, who also scored on a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
In the first meeting between the teams this season, Stewart was held to 13 yards on eight carries in a 31-10 Detroit loss.
Detroit cornerback Bryant Westbrook accounted for two of the three interceptions thrown by Tampa Bay’s Shaun King as the Lions held the faltering Buccaneers offence without a touchdown. The Bucs managed just four Martin Gramatica field goals and a safety.
“We wanted it, we talked all week about outplaying their defence,” Westbrook said. “We had the game plan ready and we were ready to win. Our secondary doesn’t let anyone get behind us.”
The Lions improved to 5-2, while Tampa Bay, which reached the NFC championship game last year and was a preseason Super Bowl favourite, suffered its fourth straight tough defeat to fall to 3-4.
“This is one of the toughest losses we have had since I’ve been here,” said Tony Dungy, who became Bucs coach in 1996. “We have dug ourselves in a big, big hole. Now, we have to pull ourselves out of it.”