DETROIT - Detroit and Tampa Bay spent the uncommonly warm autumn afternoon inside at Ford Field playing in the only NFL game of the day featuring two teams with winning records.
Detroit coach Rod Marinelli walked off the field plenty pleased and soaking wet after the Lions defeated the Buccaneers 23-16 before acrowd of 60,442.
The Lions pulled out a win in the style Marinelli was quite familiar with during his coaching stint in Tampa. The Lions played a game of field position and took advantage of opportunities presented to them by the Buccaneers, recording a blocked punt and recovering two fumbles.
And Marinelli was rewarded with a dousing by his players for the win over his former team.
"The biggest thing for me, honestly, I want to get this franchise turned around," he said, regarding the win over his former team. "My focus is on that and my focus is on this team and we've got to keep finding a way to win games.
"We still have to play better. When we get that done I'll be a happy man. I'm wired in on that."
Tampa Bay (4-3), which has been hard hit by injuries, has dropped two of its last three games after opening the season with a 3-1 start.
Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden refused to use injuries as an excuse for the loss to the Lions.
"We didn't finish drives worth a darn today," Gruden said. "That should be the storyline here today. I think we had a couple of occasions where we do have some special protections that we didn't execute and that hurts."
"We played exactly like coach [Marinelli] wanted us to," said former Tampa defensive end Dewayne White, who recorded three sacks.
"I was just the beneficiary of everybody playing. We had a system where we knew where he [Jeff Garcia] was going to escape to. We cornered him and I just got to give it to the whole defensive line. We all played great."
Detroit placekicker Jason Hanson kicked field goals of 34, 42 and 32 yards to help the Lions improve to 4-2 . The win also gave Detroit its first 3-0 start at Ford Field and first 3-0 home start dating to the 1996 season when the Lions called the Pontiac Silverdome home.
Oft-injured running back Kevin Jones saw the most action in a game this season.
He responded to his first start by leading the Lions' ground attack with 76 yards on 15 carries, including a one-yard touchdown run.
"I'm close to it," said Jones, responding to a question about whether he is 100 percent healthy. "I just have to keep playing. It comes with games and just going and going and I'll be there."
Rookie wideout Calvin Johnson, who had been hampered with a sore back, brought the crowd to its feet on a couple of occasions with his athletic skills. He caught two passes for 37 yards. However, it was Johnson's nifty footwork and speed on an end-around play he turned into a 32-yard touchdown that excited the crowd the most. It also gave the Lions a 23-7 advantage late in the fourth quarter.
Johnson took an inside handoff from Jon Kitna and raced around right end before he juked a couple would-be tacklers and skipped into the end zone.
"On the end-around play he basically showcased his skill level," Gruden said, of Johnson's highlight play.
The 6-foot-5, 239-pound receiver said his success on the rare run-play was a result of team execution.
"You've just got to go ahead and make a big play out of it," Johnson said.
"That's how we are [thinking] all the time. [It's] just like we did in practice.
"I'll give it all back to my linemen right there. All the guys blocking for me, they did a great job on that run."
Kitna completed 16-of-20 passes for 147 yards in a game Detroit seemed content with handing off to Jones and other ballcarriers.
Garcia, the former Lions quarterback, completed 37-of-45 passes for 316 yards, including two touchdowns.
However, miscues by the Buccaneers offense, including a mishandled snap and fumble by Garcia at the Lions' 1 early in the fourth quarter, marred his return to Detroit.
Jared DeVries recovered the loose ball for Detroit.
"It looked like it was a handoff from where I saw it," Marinelli said.
"Jared DeVries just made a great, great effort hustling on that."
Garcia could offer no real answer for what happened on the momentum-swinging play that occurred early in the final quarter with the Lions holding on to a 16-7 lead.
"It just didn't happen the way it's supposed to happen," he said. "I can't really explain it. It's just something I needed to take care of."
Contact Donald Emmons at:
or 419-724-6302.42.33168 -83.04792