First-Place Lions Have Plenty Of Home Games Ahead
DETROIT (AP) – The Detroit Lions control their playoff picture, sharing first place in the NFC North with Chicago, a team they’ve beaten twice to own the potential tiebreaker.
Detroit has four of its next five games at home, including Sunday’s matchup against Tampa Bay, and only one game remaining against a team that currently has a winning record.
The Lions, though, turned a great position into only a good one by blowing a four-point, fourth-quarter lead in last week’s loss at Pittsburgh.
“We still own our destiny,” defensive tackle Ndamukong said. “We can continue to hold those reins as long as we take care of business.”
If Detroit can avoid losing two straight for the first time this year against a team with a two-game winning streak, the franchise will take another step toward earning a spot in the postseason for the second time in three seasons. Perhaps even win a division title for the first time in two decades.
When Tampa Bay (2-8) plays the Lions on the road, here are five things to watch:
MEGATRON MEETS REVIS ISLAND: Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is in a spectacular stretch of his two-time All-Pro career, heading into a matchup with Darrelle Revis, who shut him down in their only other meeting. Revis limited Johnson to a career-low-matching one reception for 13 yards, the fourth-lowest total of career, three years ago to help the New York Jets win at Detroit 23-20 in overtime. The Buccaneers signed the three-time All-Pro cornerback to a six-year, $96 million for games like this one, having confidence in him even though he needed major surgery on his left knee early last season with the Jets.
“Is he all the way back? Probably not, but he is getting real close,” Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said.
Revis said he’s not 100 percent healthy, but Johnson said he looks good on film. “He’s a lot stronger than a normal corner you would face on a regular day,” Johnson said.
COACHES QUESTIONED: Detroit’s Jim Schwartz seemed to cool his potentially hot seat by leading the Lions to sole possession of first place in the NFC North. But he fired up another round of questions and criticism when a gutsy call backfired. Instead of kicking a 27-yard field goal for a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, Schwartz called for a fake that didn’t work. The Steelers scored the last two touchdowns to win 37-27.
“Y’all say whatever you want about me — don’t say I’m scared,” Schwartz said.
Schiano, meanwhile, might have improved his job security by leading Tampa Bay to two straight wins after starting 0-8 this year, and winning only one of 14 games dating back to his debut season. Schiano also dealt with the benching and release of quarterback Josh Freeman and a MRSA infections outbreak. “It’s been real tough,” he acknowledged.
ON THE RUN: The Bucs recommitted to running more three weeks ago, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has benefited. He attempted between 43 and 51 passes in four starts, and lost each game. With Mike James and Bobby Rainey filling in for the injured Doug Martin, Tampa Bay has rushed for 205, 140 and 186 yards, while Glennon has attempted 23, 21 and 23 passes.
“We had to go back to what we are, who we are,” Schiano said.
Rainey, an undrafted rookie cut last month by Cleveland, rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns during last week’s 41-28 victory against Atlanta.
“They got big O-linemen that make holes for whoever is in their backfield,” Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley said.
Detroit has allowed its last four opponents to average fewer than 50 yards rushing after giving up an average of 125 yards in its first six games. “It’s a big matchup in the game,” Schwartz said.
DUELING DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Detroit and Tampa Bay chose defensive tackles with back-to-back picks in the 2010 draft. Suh, selected No. 2 overall, has helped Detroit rank fifth against the run this year and he has 4½ sacks. Gerald McCoy, taken one pick later, had a career-high three sacks last week to give him a career-best six this season. “Both of them have lived up to their draft status,” Schwartz said.
ACTION JACKSON: When Glennon goes to the air, he’s looking for Vincent Jackson. He leads the Bucs with 56 receptions for 827 yards and five scores. Jackson had 10 receptions for the second time this year against Falcons, with a season-high 165 yards and scored once. He has four 100-yard games this season and nine since signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2012.
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