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Bucs-Lions up next

Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

Quick hits:

The Bucs' last victory was more than a month ago, Sept. 17, when they beat Detroit 31-10 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

The Lions lead the series 25-20, but the Bucs have won the last two meetings. Tampa Bay has won more games against Detroit than any other team.

The Bucs are 8-11 in prime-time games, including 8-4 at home. They have not fared well on ESPN, going 2-6.

A Bucs win would enable the Bucs to sweep the Lions in a series for the first time since 1990.

Matchups to watch:

Lions DE Robert Porcher vs. Bucs RT Jerry Wunsch. Porcher was neutralized in the September meeting at the Silverdome, but Wunsch had plenty of help from TE Dave Moore. Wunsch rightfully considers Porcher the best left defensive end in the NFL and knows the Bucs will be hard-pressed to duplicate the success they had against Porcher.

Lions RB James Stewart vs. Bucs LB Derrick Brooks. Stewart only attempted eight rushes in the Bucs 31-10 win at Detroit in September. That won't be the case Thursday night. Coach Bobby Ross has shuffled his offensive line and vows to run Stewart early and often. Brooks is the Bucs' leading tackler, but his defense has yielded big rushing games to Curtis Martin and Stephen Davis.

Bucs DT Warren Sapp vs. Lions LG Mike Compton. Sapp beat
James Atkins routinely, and Compton has moved over from center. The line change may slow down the Bucs' vaunted pass rush, which sacked Lions quarterback Charlie Batch seven times, with Sapp making three of them.

Lions KR Desmond Howard vs. Bucs special teams. Howard ran wild against the Bucs in the Silverdome, and Tampa Bay's kick coverage units are among the lowest-ranked in the NFL. If Howard duplicates his six returns for 218 yards, including a 70-yarder, it would be a mixed blessing. Seven kickoffs means the Bucs are scoring regularly, but Howard can get Detroit back in the game.

Bulletin board

"We can't get caught up in what the other team is trying to do to us. We've got to go out and impose our will on them." -- Bucs LB Derrick Brooks.

"I felt better about Tampa Bay's chances of going to the Super Bowl watching them lose Monday night than I felt watching them win the first three games of the season. Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp need to calm down because this team is going to be fine." -- Fox studio analyst Cris Collinsworth.

By the numbers

2 -- Receptions for Lions receiver Brian Stablein, who moves into the third-receiver spot because of a foot injury to Germane Crowell (27 receptions, 320 yards).

6 -- Wins in eight starts for Charlie Batch when he completes 60 percent or more of his passes.

8 -- Sacks needed by Robert Porcher to tie Al "Bubba" Baker for the Lions' all-time sack record.

38 -- First downs allowed by Detroit's defense on 85 third-down plays. Detroit's third-down efficiency is 29th in the league. The Bucs converted 10 of 16 first downs in the first game.

39.8 -- Fourth-quarter passer rating for Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch. That's the lowest among regular starters in the NFL.

218 -- Yards on six kickoff returns by Lions returner Desmond Howard in Detroit's first game against Tampa Bay. It was the third most kick return yards in Lions history.

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