By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – With the big Thanksgiving Day game against the rival Green Bay Packers coming up, it might be easy for the Detroit Lions to overlook this week’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After all, Tampa Bay began the season 0-8 and is now 2-8. Still, as much as players and coaches constantly espouse, “You are what your record says you are,” they look beyond those bottom line numbers just as many others do.
“I don’t think their record speaks for how good they are,” Lions running back Reggie Bush said. “We definitely have our work cut out for us this week.”
Indeed, beneath the sorry record appears to be a team that is not necessarily horrible. The Bucs lost three of their first four games by three points or fewer. After Tampa Bay won its first game two weeks ago, it won again. The week before the breakthrough, the Bucs lost by just three points in overtime to the powerful Seattle Seahawks, now 10-1.
The teams the Bucs have beaten are hardly monstrous opponents, but especially for a team that has struggled so mightily of late, a win is a win is a win. Unthinkable as it might seem, Tampa Bay has some momentum.
The Bucs’ ground attack is solid – 13th in the league in rushing. Tampa Bay does well against the run, too, allowing just 101.4 rushing yards per game, good for ninth-best in the NFL .
“They’re an extremely talented defense, probably the most talented defense we’ve played all year,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “You look at what they’ve spent resources-wise, draft pick-wise, I don’t know if there’s anybody later than a third-round draft pick starting on defense for them. These guys are top-notch, talented players.
“The whole front four, three linebackers, the kid from Rutgers, second-year kid, Lavonte David, he’s filling up the stat sheet, sacking the quarterback, picking balls off, middle linebacker’s doing the same, both safeties are tearing it up,” Stafford continued. “You’ve got Darrelle Revis on one side and a rookie, second-round draft pick, I believe, from Mississippi State on the other side.”
Even more importantly, it seems the Bucs are buying in to the message of embattled coach Greg Schiano.
“You know, the outside world is going to say what they want but that’s why we don’t listen to what everybody on the outside is saying,” locker room leader Gerald McCoy told Fox Sports. “We don’t quit, man. We’re the best competitors in the world at what we do. That’s why they call us professionals. We just never stop. As I said all year, we were going to keep fighting until we got that feeling that we wanted — and that’s to win when the clock ticks to zero.”
In short, the Bucs have new life, and while ruining that brief resurgence is still a good possibility for the Lions, it might not be as automatic as many think.