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Lions won't abandon the run

The Lions' new West Coast offense centers on the passing game, but quarterback Charlie Batch said Detroit has to run the ball against the Bucs to win today.

"(Running the ball) changes their defensive plan. If you get one dimensional and you're not able to run the ball on them, you're doomed," Batch said. "The majority of the games they've struggled in, it was because the other team was rushing the ball. And that's something we have to do. We have to be able to run the ball.

"That's the way we had success against Tampa Bay (in the past), was being able to run the ball. You can see the game that we didn't, we had no rushing yards and they totally dominated us then."

Batch was referring to last season's game at the Silverdome in which the Lions had 17 rushing yards in a 31-10 loss. In the rematch in Tampa, the Lions had 170 yards on the ground in a 28-14 win.

Running the ball, though, has been a problem for Detroit this season. Starting running back James Stewart has missed the past two games with an ankle sprain and is questionable today.

Stewart, who had 1,184 yards last season, had been averaging more than five yards a carry and had 108 yards on 16 carries against Minnesota before hurting his ankle the next week against Tennessee.

In the two games he sat out, the Lions had 61 rushing yards against Cincinnati and 62 against San Francisco.

Said coach Marty Mornhinweg: "We miss James."

DID YOU KNOW?: Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Porcher is fourth in the NFC with seven sacks. His next one will equal his sack total from last season.

DID YOU KNOW II?: The last time the Lions (0-7) started with such a poor record, it was 1942 and they finished the season 0-11.

LOOKING FOR THE END ZONE: The Lions are having a vastly different season than the Bucs, but both teams have one definite similarity. "We need to score points. Not three. We need to score touchdowns," Batch said. "That's something we definitely need to do."

The Lions are averaging 15 points a game, the Bucs nearly 20.

TENACITY: Mornhinweg said the Lions, who have lost their past four games by an average of 5 points, will not quit. "I will tell you this, our players refuse to feel sorry for themselves. This team doesn't say, "Oh, why me or why us?' Or anything of that nature. I think we have some high character players with some tremendous amounts of personal pride, and that's why we've fought to the bitter end in many of these games."

WAITING FOR BARRY: Lions fans continue to hope former star Barry Sanders will return to the team. Club officials have tried to talk him into playing, but have had no success.

Batch, who said he has spoken with Sanders within the past year, has some advice: Don't hold your breath.

"I don't think he'll ever be back," Batch said, echoing other Detroit players. "I mean, I've talked to him and it's one of those deals where when he made a decision (to retire), that was it. That was final. He didn't ever want to look back on it.

"He's enjoying retirement. It was one of things where he said he was tired of football. I think it was twenty-something years he had been playing and never really had a chance to see his family, be around his son. And I think that was more important than anything."

STAT OF THE DAY: Detroit's defense is allowing a league-worst 6.73 yards on first down.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Darrell Fry using some information from other news organizations.