Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn't be too quick to overlook these lowly Lions

Coach Rod Marinelli and the Lions have stumbled to an 0-10 start. Can the Bucs avoid giving Detroit its first victory?

Associated Press (2006)

Coach Rod Marinelli and the Lions have stumbled to an 0-10 start. Can the Bucs avoid giving Detroit its first victory?

And now, a few words about the Detroit Lions.

Defective. Terrible. Putrescent.

The Lions are woeful. They are worse than the Chiefs, worse than the Rams, worse than the Bengals. They are worse than the 2007 Dolphins, worse than the 2001 Panthers, worse than the 2000 Chargers. They are worse than disco, worse than mood rings and worse than spoiled milk.

Ah, but here is the question.

Counting today only, are they worse than the 2008 Bucs?

You are concerned about the lowly Lions, aren't you? You are aware that, in the NFL, a pretty good football team is perfectly capable of tripping over a dormant one. You understand that following the NFL eventually leads to heartbreak.

Can these Lions (0-10) beat the Bucs? Maybe.

Can these Bucs beat themselves? Certainly.

You have seen it before. Tampa Bay will be puttering along in a perfectly fine season, and as you begin to ponder the postseason, they will find a way to lose to a team that has spent the season wandering around in circles.

Remember the game in San Francisco last year? The Bucs were 9-5 and playing against a 4-10 49ers team that was down to a quarterback named Shaun Hill. And the 49ers won. Remember the '05 game, also in San Francisco, when the 5-1 Bucs lost to the 1-5 49ers?

It happens. Every now and then, there is a team that can pull a better team down into the muck. As former University of Texas coach Darrell Royal once said of an opponent, "They're like a bunch of cockroaches. The problem isn't what they eat and tote off. It's what they fall into and mess up."

Which brings us to the Lions, who are 28th in offense and 31st in defense and haven't been on local television since McHale's Navy. How can the Bucs possibly lose to these guys?

Oh, there are ways.

• For one thing, the Lions beat the Bucs last year.

If you recall, losing that game took some doing, too. The Bucs gained 422 yards. But they fumbled twice, and they started slowly, and they gave up big plays. Those are the things that could beat them today, too.

To date, these Bucs are almost identical to last year's Bucs. Fortunately, compared to these Lions, last year's Lions were the '85 Bears.

• For another, the Bucs' ground game is running with a limp.

After losing tailback Earnest Graham for the season, the Bucs are down to Warrick Dunn and questions about Cadillac Williams' knee and Clifton Smith's hands. That's going to make it harder to take advantage of a Lions' run defense that has allowed a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry.

• For another, it's a road game.

Who knows? Perhaps the Bucs are afraid of hotels. Perhaps they miss the kids. For whatever reason, they haven't been nearly the same team on the road. They're 2-3 this year (5-0 at home). Since 2004, the Bucs are 14-25. They've only won two of their past 11 games on turf.

• Does anyone remember Kansas City 24, Tampa Bay 3?

It was only two weeks ago, against a similar team from the neighboring dregs, that the Bucs fell three touchdowns behind while on the road. Put it this way: If NFL teams had homecoming games, the Lions would want to schedule the Chiefs.

Yeah, the Bucs dug themselves out of a hole in that one with a franchise-best comeback for a win. But it says something that Tampa Bay played badly enough to get so far behind, doesn't it?

• Perhaps today's game will be attended by alumni of the 1942 Lions, who finished 0-11 and want to see their record preserved.

• Consider the Minnesota barometer.

Yeah, the Bucs feel pretty good about beating Minnesota 19-13 last week. On the other hand, the Lions had the Vikings beaten, too, until a shaky pass interference call gave Minnesota 42 yards and set it up for a winning field goal in Week 6.

As bad as they have been, in other words, the Lions could have won a game here or there. That's the thing about the NFL. Even the worst teams usually win a game or two. And for the Lions, who don't play a team with a losing record the rest of the way, this could be as good a shot as any.

• Today is the Lions' two-month anniversary of Matt Millen's firing. The numbness should be wearing off by now.

• There is no motivation quite like desperation.

If nothing else, Daunte Culpepper can throw the ball a long way. If nothing else, Calvin Johnson can get to the other side of it.

If you remember the Kansas City game, the big play is the great equalizer. And while the Bucs defense has been good this year, it has surrendered a few big plays. This time last year, the Bucs had given up only 14 pass completions of 20 yards or longer. This year, that number is up to 22.

Will the Bucs lose this game? Probably not. Are they capable of making you fling the remote along the way? Of course they are.

Fortunately, it will probably be more accurate than anything Culpepper throws.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn't be too quick to overlook these lowly Lions 11/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:47pm]

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