We've constantly referenced last year's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions to analyze the upcoming game, but the two teams have faced each other many more times throughout their history.The two teams were in the same division, the NFC Central, from 1977 until 2002, when the divisions were realigned and the Buccaneers were placed in the NFC South.
As a result, the Buccaneers and Lions have played 53 times in total, including once in the playoffs. The results are almost perfectly split: the Lions have won 27 of those games, while the Buccaneers have won 26 of them. Interestingly, almost none of those games were won in dominating fashion by Tampa Bay. Despite having a stellar defense on multiple occasions, the Detroit Lions never failed to score at least ten points.
The Bucs outgained their opponents by 100 or more yards just seven times, while the Lions outgained the Bucs by at least that margin ten times. The Bucs most lopsided win in terms of yards came in 1982, when they outgained the Lions by 167 yards, but won by just 23 to 21. Meanwhile, the Lions outdid that total on four occasions, winning all three of those games.
The Lions' most lopsided win in the series came in 1992, when they beat the Buccaneers 38 to 7. They outgained the Buccaneers by 167 yards that day, and Barry Sanders rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Rodney Peete added 208 yards on just 19 attempts, scoring 3 touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Bucs couldn't get anything going. Vinny Testaverde managed just 26 yards on 11 attempts, finishing the day with an interception before being replaced by Steve DeBerg, who threw for just 135 yards. The only Buccaneer touchdown was scored by running back Reggie Cobb. The Lions dominated that game start to finish.
Meanwhile, the most dominant win the Buccaneers had was a 31-10 victory in 2000. The Bucs were coming off a division title and an NFC Championship berth, while the Lions had gone 8-8 in their first season after Barry Sanders' retirement. Both the Lions and Bucs were 2-0 coming into that game, but the Lions stood no chance. John Lynch and Donnie Abraham notched interceptions, while the defensive line led the Bucs defense to a seven sacks. Warren Sapp had three sacks.
Shaun King was as red-hot as he ever got, throwing for 211 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 17 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn combined for 102 yards, and both ran the ball into the endzone as well.
The most memorable game for the Bucs was the 1997 playoff game, however. After finishing second in the division the Buccaneers had made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1982, when the Dallas Cowboys destroyed them 30-17. The Lions had grabbed the final Wildcard spot, and had to travel to Tampa to face the Bucs in the final game in the Old Sombrero.
The Tampa Bay BUccaneers knew they had to do one thing to stop the Lions: stop Barry Sanders. And stop him they did, as Barry Sanders rushed for just 65 yards on 18 attempts. He could find no running room, as a disciplined defense keyed a 20-10 win. Trent Dilfer, managed 181 yards on 26 pass attempts, throwing one touchdown and one interception, while Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott combined for 140 yards on 29 carries, with Alstott scoring a touchdown on
Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell completed just 10 of his 25 passes for a staggeringly low 78 yards. Reich had more success late in the game, completing 11 of 15 passes for 129 yards, but he was facing mostly prevent defenses as the Bucs tried to preserve their 20-3 lead. Reich led the Lions on one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but it came too late for the Lions to pull out a win.
I will be hoping for that kind of game tomorrow, but history tells us it's likely to be a very close game.