“Have we failed? Yes. Have I failed? Yes. Am I going to give up? No way,”, “Am I discouraged? No way. I’m not.” Those were the words of Detroit Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli this week, as his team looks to end an atrocious 10 game losing streak. Detroit is off to its worst start since beginning 0-12 in 2001.
Dating back to last season, Detroit has dropped 17 of their last 18 games. If they are looking to end this period of desperation, they’ll have to go through a Tampa Bay team that has won two straight and looking to gain momentum for a playoff push.
Jeff Garcia and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have managed to slip by their last two opponents, winning by a combined 9 points. To continue their success this week, they’ll have to contend with a starving Lions franchise who just can’t find any answers.
Garcia has been very efficient at starting quarterback since regaining a job he lost from a week one defeat, improving his record to 4-2 under center. Tampa Bay is currently 7-3 and off to their best start since 2005. They trail the Carolina Panthers (who consequently defeated the Lions 31-22 last Sunday) by a game for the top spot in the NFC South. In 6 games, Garcia has totaled 1,618 yards, 5 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions, compiling a quarterback rating of 91.2. The three time Pro-Bowler, also ran for 21 yards showing his ability to scramble out the pocket when necessary.
The Buccaneers will be without their starting running back Earnest Graham for the rest of the season. Graham sprained his right ankle last week in a victory against the Vikings. This injury will increase the role of veteran running back Warrick Dunn and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who just returned to the 53 man roster this week. Coach Jon Gruden is still uncertain as to the status of Williams playing time, but remains hopeful.
No matter whom the Buccaneers decide to hand the ball off to; they should not have much problem establishing a ground attack because the Lions rank last in the league in run defense. So far this season the Lions have let up 1,715 yards and 17 touchdowns by the oppositions rushing.
The Lions also have had problems defending against the pass as well, ranking 23rd in the league in pass defense. If Detroit wants to have any chance in this game, they’re going to have to contain limit the Buccaneer’s run game and attempt to play a complete game for the first time all season.
Looking back to last season, Detroit defeated the Buccaneers 23-16 at Ford Field breaking a 4 game win streak on the Bucs’ way to a division title.
Daunte Culpepper will get the starting nod for the Lions and has not faced Tampa Bay since he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. In his career against Tampa Bay, Culpepper has thrown just 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If last weeks game is any prelude to Sunday’s matchup, Culpepper threw just one touchdown and was picked off twice, in a loss of course.
With Jeff Garcia finally settling in for the season, I look for the Bucs’ to feel the added pressure and continue to nip at the heels of the division leading Panthers and take care of business on the road in Detroit. Unfortunately for Detroit, there woes will continue. Don’t look for much chance of a win anytime soon, as they host the undefeated Titans Thursday on Thanksgiving. Buccaneers win this one easily, 31-14.