DETROIT -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied several franchise records for success and maintained a share of the NFL's best record.
|Mike Alstott rumbles for a 1-yard TD run as QB Brad Johnson celebrates.(AP)|
Tampa Bay (11-3) clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season and tied franchise records for wins and road victories (five), but had to hold off numerous comeback attempts from the lowly Lions (3-11).
The Bucs survived as Detroit's Jason Hanson was short on a 57-yard field goal with 1:51 left.
"It wasn't our best game, but I'm not disappointed about being 11-3," Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said. "To win 11 games and tie franchise records is something I'm going to enjoy, at least on the flight home."
The Buccaneers have won five of six, and Sunday's win, coupled with losses by New Orleans and Atlanta, gave them at least a two-game lead in the NFC South.
Quarterback Brad Johnson said Tampa Bay is still focused on the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl, not records or individual accolades.
"We have guys who have won some special awards, and some that may make the Hall of Fame," Johnson said. "But we do not have one player on this team that has won a Super Bowl. That's the job."
The Lions have lost six straight.
"The players are devastated. Devastated," said Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg, who is 5-25 with the Lions. "There is no consolation in losing a game, period. We had multiple chances to come up with a play to win that football game."
Detroit was without rookie quarterback Joey Harrington after its first drive. He was taken to a hospital for tests and observation with an irregular heartbeat.
Team doctor Kyle Anderson said Harrington's heartbeat returned to a normal rhythm before he was hospitalized, but he was to stay overnight at Henry Ford Hospital as a precaution.
Backup Mike McMahon created some excitement.
McMahon, benched for Harrington to start Week 3, was 10-of-21 for 158 yards, with one TD passing and one rushing, plus an interception.
"I was able to make some plays, but it still wasn't enough," McMahon said. "When Joey comes back and is healthy, I'm sure Joey will be the guy."
Johnson was 24-of-41 for 253 yards without a TD or an interception. Keyshawn Johnson caught six passes for 90 yards. Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman combined for 93 yards rushing and two TDs.
Each time the Buccaneers went ahead, Detroit had an answer.
Tampa Bay took a 10-0 lead on its first two possessions, but allowed the Lions to tie the game on McMahon's first two drives.
The Buccaneers had a 13-10 halftime lead, but watched McMahon lead a game-tying drive on the first possession of the second half.
Tampa Bay's Shelton Quarles stopped a Detroit drive with an interception early in the fourth quarter, then Pittman's 4-yard run put the Bucs ahead 20-13. But they couldn't hold onto that lead, either.
Rookie Eddie Drummond returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to Tampa Bay's 5, and McMahon scored on a 2-yard rollout to tie the game for a third time.
After Gramatica's third field goal, Detroit drove to Tampa Bay's 39, but chose to kick on fourth-and-6. Hanson's previous-best kick was from 56 yards.
Early on, it looked like the blowout many predicted.
Aaron Stecker took the opening kickoff to Detroit's 26, but the Buccaneers settled for Gramatica's 20-yard field goal. They went ahead 10-0 on a 12-play, 96-yard drive capped by Alstott's 1-yard run.
Detroit also was without running back James Stewart because of hip and toe injuries, but the trio of Aveion Cason, Rafael Cooper and Cory Schlesinger combined for 143 yards rushing. Schroeder caught four passes for 96 yards and a TD.
- Tampa Bay tied its team record for wins set in 1999, and the record for road victories set in 1979 and 1997.
- Bucs DT Anthony McFarland may miss the rest of the season with a broken right foot, Gruden said.
- Drummond left the game with a concussion after his 91-yard kick return.
- The Bucs are 19-9 in December since 1996.
- Tampa Bay caused a turnover for an NFL-best 39th straight game.
The Associated Press News Service
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