(The Buccaneers return home to play their old NFC Central rival Detroit Lions Sunday. Our resident Bucs historian, Paul Stewart of Bucpower.com in London, gives a look at some of his favorite games in the series. Click the score to go to his site for vintage photos of the games, etc.)
The all-time series with the Lions currently sees Detroit four ahead thanks to their win at Ford Field in December 2014. The Lions are the team that the Buccaneers have played the most in their franchise history thanks to their twice-a-year meetings when they were both in the old NFC Central Division. They have met once in the post-season, the 1997 Wild Card victory for Tampa Bay that was the final game played at the Old Sombrero. They have never met in pre-season play.
Sunday 20 December 1981 at the Silverdome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Detroit Lions 17
This one was for the NFC Central Division title. Whoever won went to the playoffs, whoever lost stayed at home. The Lions were 7-0 at the Silverdome going into this game and it came down to two big plays, one on either side of the ball for the Buccaneers.
With the Lions leading 7-3 in the second quarter and driving for more, S Cedric Brown intercepted QB Eric Hipple inside the Tampa 20-yard line. On the very next play, QB Doug Williams went long down the right sideline and WR Kevin House caught the bomb to complete an 84-yard scoring play.
The Bucs led 13-10 going into the fourth quarter when two defensive stalwarts teamed up to send the Bucs into the post-season. DE Lee Roy Selmon sacked Hipple and DT David Logan returned the ensuing fumble 21 yards for a touchdown.
Sunday 27 September 1992 at the Silverdome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Detroit Lions 23
Of all the 56 regular season meetings between the Buccaneers and the Lions, none were as up-and-down as this encounter from early in Sam Wyche’s first season as Tampa Bay head coach. Lead changes and big plays were common in the final minutes with victory only being secured on the last second of the game.
The Bucs took a 20-16 lead when rookie DT Santana Dotson, on his way to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Award, returned a fumble 42 yards for a score. The Lions’ Mel Gray then returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards to put the Lions back in front.
QB Vinny Testaverde then led his team back downfield and capped an 80-yard 14-play scoring drive with a 14-yard strike to TE Ron Hall with 49 seconds remaining. QB Rodney Peete then hit WR Willie Green and WR Bret Perriman on long passes to take them to the Tampa 15-yard line but his final pass to Perriman saw the Lions’ receiver tackled by CB Milton Mack at the 3-yard line as time expired.
Sunday 28 December 1997 at Houlihan’s Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Detroit Lions 10
The final game ever played at the Old Sombrero as the Bucs and Lions met in a Wild Card playoff game. For the Buccaneers, it was their first post-season appearance in 15 seasons as Tony Dungy’s Pewter Pirates eliminated so many bad memories over the years on their way to a 10-6 season.
This one was never really in doubt as the Bucs jumped out to a 20-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, Mike Alstott scoring the final Tampa touchdown at their original home on a 31-yard burst that led to radio commentator Gene Deckerhoff’s now legendary call of “Alstott up the gut”.
The Lions got to within 10 during the fourth quarter but a late desperation drive ended when QB Frank Reich mistakenly spiked the ball on 4th down inside the final minute and the Tampa fans could celebrate the closing of their old stadium with a memorable victory.
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