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Bucs ride four interceptions for 24-21 win over Lions

DETROIT — Everybody at Ford Field knew the pass was going to Calvin Johnson. Megatron was no longer marooned on Revis Island after Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis pulled his groin just before halftime and couldn’t return.
Because most of Sunday’s game plan centered on that matchup and with starting safety Dashon Goldson suspended, you figured the Lions’ roar would be restored against a bunch of no-names left in Tampa Bay’s depleted secondary.
“The best cover corner in the league goes down against that guy?” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “You’re like, 'Oh, shoot!’ Let’s be real. That’s Mega­tron.”
Needing at least a field goal with 50 seconds remaining in the game, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford appeared to complete a 15-yard pass to Johnson inside the Tampa Bay 5. But safety Kelcie McCray hit the 6-foot-5, 236-pounder and dislodged the ball, which fell into the waiting arms of rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks.
It was the fourth interception by the Bucs, who also recovered a fumble and blocked a punt, and preserved their 24-21 upset of the Lions for their third win in a row.
“He got a good hit on me,” said Johnson, who leads the league in receiving yards with 1,083, is tied for first in touchdown catches with 11 and is tied for 10th in catches with 59.
With apologies to the Saints, “Who Dat” was the operative question every time the Bucs produced another turnover as a bevy of defensive backups pitched in for the win.
“That was one of the more gutsy performances I’ve seen from a team,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “A lot of things went against them, and they just kept playing their guts out. And I’m proud of them. Five takeaways and a blocked punt, and we needed every bit of it to win.”
McCray, a second-year player from Arkansas State claimed off waivers from the Dolphins on Oct. 2, also recovered receiver Kris Durham’s fumble forced by backup cornerback Danny Gorrer.
Cornerback Leonard Johnson, another backup, returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown late in the first half. Stafford’s first interception, by linebacker Lavonte David, caromed off receiver Nate Burleson, and safety Keith Tandy ended another drive with an interception when Stafford floated the ball toward Johnson in the end zone.
“We were really shorthanded,” Schiano said. “It was just an incredible persistence by these guys.”
The best performance might have belonged to Banks, who essentially took over Revis’ job of blanketing Megatron.
“I was telling J.B. everything,” Revis said. “After the first series of the second half, he came to the sideline and J.B. said, 'Man, I was nervous!’ I said, 'Nervous for what?’ He said, 'Man, he’s about 6-6 or 6-7.’
“I said, 'Look, man, never mind all of that. Ya’ll put on the same shoes. He’s normal. Just cover him, man.’ He got a little more comfortable and made a lot of plays.”
Johnson was targeted six times and had four catches for 61 yards before Revis’ injury. The Bucs had no details on the severity of the injury or how long it will keep Revis on the sideline.
“Right before the half, Calvin took me on the post on the one play. It tweaked then,” Revis said. “I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it’ll go away. He went out. Another receiver came in, and they took me deep again. And that’s when I felt it again and said, 'Something is wrong. I can’t even push off it.’ ”
In the second half, Johnson was targeted eight times and caught three for 54 yards, finishing with seven catches for 115 yards.
Meanwhile, the Bucs got just enough offense from Mike Glennon, who passed for 247 yards, including touchdowns of 7 and 85 yards to receiver Tiquan Underwood.
The Bucs mustered little on the ground as Bobby Rainey was held to 35 yards on 18 carries.
“Detroit almost stormed the castle,” Schiano said. “They had a guy in every gap. But it’s also why those balls were flying over the top.”
Up 24-21 after Underwood’s 85-yard score 55 seconds into the fourth quarter, The Bucs had two chances to expand the lead. First, Gorrer blocked a punt to set them up at the Lions 11, but Rian Lindell missed a 35-yard field goal. Then after McCray’s 17-yard fumble return to the Detroit 37, Lindell missed from 50. Both went wide left, the latter giving the Lions the ball at their 40 with 3:49 left.
“If you lose the game, you look back at those two situations and say that’s what lost the game,” Schiano said. “But it was going to take the amount of takeaways we had to win that game, up to that last one.”
Behind a 21-yard pass to Johnson, the Lions drove to the Tampa Bay 26. But on third and 12 from the 28, Stafford looked for Megatron, who typically puts the team on his back and delivers.
“I was reading the quarterback. He was looking at Johnson the whole way,” McCray said. “I leaned that way, saw the ball and broke as fast as I could. I saw he’d caught the ball when I got there, and my mentality was get the ball loose, get the ball loose by any means necessary.”
As Banks said, “The ball popped out and fell right into my hands.”
Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

Bucs ride four interceptions for 24-21 win over Lions 11/24/13 [Last modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 12:45am]

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