NFL Wire News

Lions feel guilty after mugging Bucs


ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions right guard Larry Warford thought someone might call the police on the defensive line Sunday as it repeatedly threw Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown to the turf.

With six sacks and 14 quarterback hits, the Lions dominated up front in a 34-17 win over Tampa Bay at Ford Field.

“There was a couple times I was just like, is that legal?” Warford said. “He was getting laid out a couple times. I was like, someone might call the cops. This is not fair.”

The Lions offense didn’t make anything easier Sunday as Matthew Stafford finished 26 of 34 for 311 yards and three touchdowns, his second straight game completing more than 75 percent of his passes (76.5).

“He played a very good game,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s hitting his stride, I think, and hopefully we can keep him heading that direction.”

Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 158 yards, his 14th career 150-yard game, and took advantage of a couple coverage breakdowns by Tampa Bay. Joique Bell had two touchdowns and 133 yards from scrimmage, including the Lions’ longest run of the year for 57 yards.

After a 34-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving, the Lions improved to 9-4 and took one more step toward securing a playoff berth. It was Detroit’s first December win since 2011, ending a nine-game losing streak. Although Johnson said he didn’t know about the streak, other players did and think the win showed the Lions are different than past teams.

“We’re handling what’s going on right now in the moment,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said. “There’s nothing else. We’re not looking past it, really just what’s going right now. Like today, it was just Tampa. I didn’t even know who else played each other in the NFL today.

“In the past, it was, ‘We need this and this to happen.’ We’re just doing our thing. If we keep doing our thing, we’ll be all right.”

The defense kept making big plays, led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s six tackles, three for loss, one sack and three quarterback hits. Tampa Bay ran for just 26 yards on 14 carries, and the Lions forced three turnovers, including an interception each by safeties James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin.

With a home game against the Vikings (6-7) followed by one in Chicago (5-8), the Lions will face two inferior opponents with a chance to reach 11 wins before a Week 17 game in Green Bay. Winning the next two games would be a sign this team is different than the one that lost six of seven games to end 2013.

–Tight end Joseph Fauria caught his first touchdown of the season in the third quarter, a 10-yard catch. But he made the play on an injured left ankle after aggravating an ailment that cost him six games this year.

Fauria played just 12 snaps Sunday and had two catches for 17 yards and was set to undergo an MRI on Monday.

“We’ll kind of see what’s going to happen with him,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. “There’s a few guys that — as always after a ball game — are a little worse for wear, but we’ll see after the next couple days or so.”

–Tight end Brandon Pettigrew didn’t play in the first quarter, and he and coach Jim Caldwell confirmed after the game he was punished for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

“It was punishment for something that I did,” Pettigrew said. “It was a quarter, and it’s over with and it’s back to business.”

Joseph Fauria was announced as the starter in Pettigrew’s place, but Eric Ebron made the start.

“Coach’s decision,” Pettigrew said. “I’m not going to tell you the rule. It’s just a team rule violation.”

–Running back Theo Riddick didn’t play a snap Sunday as Reggie Bush returned after missing the past three games. Coach Jim Caldwell said there wasn’t room in the game plan for Riddick with Bush healthy even though he’s been more effective as a receiver than Bush.

“Theo does a lot of things that Reggie does,” Caldwell said Monday. “When Reggie’s out, Theo kind of takes on a number of the same roles, so when Reggie’s back, there’s only one spot for one guy.

“There’s only so many spots for guys to occupy, so you’ve got to do what you have to do to get the guys in and work them and try to spread it around as much as we can. But we can’t use everybody.”

In the five games Bush missed this year, Riddick averaged 53.4 receiving yards. Bush’s season high is 49 receiving yards in Week 1. On Riddick’s 27 receptions, he’s averaging 10.1 yards and has scored three touchdowns. Bush is averaging 5.9 yards on his 30 catches with no scores.

Joique Bell has been the Lions top back and Sunday had 83 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Bush had eight carries for 26 yards and four catches for 8 yards.

REPORT CARD VS. Buccaneers

–PASSING OFFENSE: A — Matthew Stafford was precise Sunday, completing 26 of 34 passes (76.5 percent) for 311 yards and three touchdowns. The only problem for the passing attack was Stafford taking four sacks, but he had plenty of time on most plays. Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 158 yards and one touchdown, and Golden Tate had four catches for 50 yards.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B — For the Lions, 31 carries for 113 yards is a great rushing performance, but they still have work to do. Joique Bell led the way with 18 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, but his numbers and the rushing total are heavily influenced by a 57-yard gain in the fourth quarter. The Lions still need to be more consistent on the ground.

–PASS DEFENSE: A-minus — Josh McCown never got into rhythm as the Lions repeatedly threw him to the ground. McCown was 20 of 39 for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and the Lions sacked him six times, hit him 14 times and caught two interceptions. Besides a couple deep passes and pass interferences, the coverage was good, too.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Lions held Tampa Bay to 26 yards on 14 carries, their second straight game holding a team below 30 rushing yards. Teams are averaging just 62.8 rushing yards per game against the Lions and have started to give up early in games.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Six of Sam Martin’s seven kickoffs were touchbacks, and he averaged 51.7 yards per punt, including a 71-yarder. Matt Prater hit both of his field goals, one from 46 yards and one from 23. And Jeremy Ross had a solid game with his longest kickoff return of the year, 36 yards.

–COACHING: B — At least twice the Lions took Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and called predictable runs, one of which gained nothing and the other resulted in a 1-yard Joique Bell touchdown only because the Buccaneers are a really bad team. But Jim Caldwell deserves plenty of credit for having his team’s mind right as the Lions ended a nine-game December losing streak.

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