1:00 PM ET, November 24, 2013
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
A week ago, circumstances seemed perfect for the Detroit Lions to possibly run away with a division title. But a second-half letdown saw their advantage all but disappear.
Detroit will try to bounce back at home on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won two in a row.
The Lions (6-4) held a one-game edge for first place in the NFC North entering last week, a lead that appeared even larger considering the injuries to Chicago and Green Bay's starting quarterbacks, not to mention the club's favorable remaining schedule.
But a controversial decision by coach Jim Schwartz proved costly in a 37-27 loss at Pittsburgh.
With a 27-23 advantage early in the fourth quarter, he elected to fake what would have been a 27-yard-field goal. Holder Sam Martin was stopped short and fumbled the ball, setting up a go-ahead touchdown drive for the Steelers. Matthew Stafford was intercepted on the next possession, and Pittsburgh put the game out of reach with another touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Bears knocked off Baltimore to pull even with the Lions, though Detroit owns the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series.
"If we were successful in that situation, and we go up 11 right there, I know what you guys would write," Schwartz said. "You guys would write: 'It's a different attitude, Lions are going for the win, they're not trying to just be settling for field goals.'"
The bigger concern moving forward may be the Lions' offense after an anemic second-half showing. Detroit racked up 379 yards in the first half, scoring all 27 of its points in the second quarter. Matthew Stafford threw for 327 yards before halftime, with Calvin Johnson accounting for 179 on six receptions.
The Lions were held to just 72 yards in the second half while none of Stafford's three attempts to hook up with Johnson connected.
"We just didn't execute," said Stafford, who was 3 for 16 for 35 yards in the final two quarters. "They came out in the second half and played a little bit more two-man. For one reason or another we didn't connect."
Diverting opposing defenses' attention away from Johnson remains an issue, particularly once adjustments have been made. He's averaging 49.3 yards in the second half of games compared to 70.9 in the first half.
The potential return of Nate Burleson -- who has been out since Week 3 with a broken forearm suffered in a car accident -- could help open things up. Burleson was upgraded to doubtful for last Sunday's game and has practiced for the last two weeks.
That could be particularly important with Johnson likely to be shadowed by Darrelle Revis, who has anchored a stingier Tampa Bay pass defense of late. The Buccaneers have limited opposing passers to a combined 81.4 rating over their last three games, recording five interceptions after tallying six in the previous seven games.
Revis defended two passes intended for Johnson while holding him to one reception for 13 yards in a 23-20 victory for the New York Jets over Detroit on Nov. 7, 2010 -- the players' only previous matchup.
The Buccaneers (2-8) will be looking for a third straight win behind a resurgent rushing attack. They've run for at least 140 yards in three straight games for the first time since 2005.
Claimed off waivers on Oct. 21 following Doug Martin's season-ending shoulder injury, Bobby Rainey was thrust into action after Mike James suffered a broken ankle in the team's Nov. 11 win over Miami. After running for 45 yards and a score on eight carries against the Dolphins, the former undrafted free agent went for 163 yards and three TDs in Sunday's 41-28 win over Atlanta.
"He's got a good feel, and when I say that it's just he's a football player," coach Greg Schiano said.
The 5-foot-8, 212-pounder could be in for a stiffer challenge against a Detroit defense that ranks fifth against the run allowing 94.6 yards per game.
Johnson has 19 catches for 306 yards and three TDs in his last three games versus Tampa Bay, including a 27-20 road win on Sept. 11, 2011. Stafford was 24 of 33 for 305 yards, three scores and an interception.
The Lions lead the series 29-25, though Tampa Bay has won four of five in Detroit.
More from ESPN.com
Safety Quin on Lions' schedule: We'll start 7-1
After perusing Detroit's first eight opponents on the newly released NFL schedule, safety Glover Quin says the Lions will start 7-1.
Jets' Brady hunch in '95 altered NFL history
Because of the events of April 22, 1995, Kyle Brady became a Jet, Warren Sapp went to the Bucs and Ray Lewis eventually landed with the Ravens. Two of those teams went on to win Super Bowls.
McShay: 2015 NFL Mock Draft 5.0
Todd McShay gives his fifth projection of all 32 first-round picks for the 2015 NFL draft, including some huge changes and trade speculation in the top 10.
Recent Blog Posts
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers mailbag
- Don't compare Jameis Winston to JaMarcus Russell
- Bucs can't afford to wait on rookie QB
|Avg Points Allowed||23.5||25.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||TB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||TB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tampa Bay leads 6-3|
|Sep 11, 2011||TB 20, DET 27|
|Dec 19, 2010||TB 20, DET 23|
|Nov 23, 2008||TB 38, @DET 20|
|Oct 21, 2007||TB 16, @DET 23|
|Oct 2, 2005||TB 17, DET 13|
|Dec 15, 2002||TB 23, @DET 20|
|Dec 9, 2001||TB 15, DET 12|
|Nov 11, 2001||TB 20, @DET 17|
Matthew Stafford was 7-of-14 for 115 yards and two interceptions targeting Calvin Johnson Sunday, the first game since Week 10 of 2011 when Stafford threw multiple interceptions targeting Johnson. For Tampa, Tiquan Underwood had his first career multi-touchdown game, posting a career-high 108 yards and outdoing Johnson on deep throws.[+]
Mike Glennon is 6-6 for 265 yards on throws of more than 15 yards downfield the last 2 games He was 9-29 on such throws prior to this stretch
Matthew Stafford was 26-of-46 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Stafford struggled throwing downfield, an area of weakness for the Tampa Bay defense through the team's first 11 weeks.[+]
Bucs Pass Defense At Least 15 Yds Downfield, 2013
Mike Glennon is one of only 2 qualified quarterbacks in the NFL to have not thrown an interception on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season. He has posted a 98.7 Total QBR on such throws, 5th best in the league. -Glennon's 85-yard touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood traveled 40 yards through the air. The touchdown added 31% to the Bucs' win probability and proved to be the game winner.[+]
Buccaneers QBs This Season Throws at Least 15 Yds Downfield
The 85-yard touchdown catch by Tiquan Underwood is the 3rd-longest TD catch in Buccaneers history. The only two to surpass it were an 89-yarder by Willie Drewrey against the Falcons in 1990 and an 87-yarder by Willie Drewrey in 1991 against the Packers (both thrown by Vinny Testaverde) Also of note: Tiquan Underwood: first multi-TD game of his career.
ESPN Stats & Information