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Lions Tame Buccaneers


Greg Hill made the Tampa Bay defense seem human. The officials made Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy see red.

Hill rushed for 123 yards and Sedrick Irvin scored on a 2-yard run as the Lions rolled to a 20-3 victory in a key NFC Central matchup Sunday night.

Allen Aldridge scored on a 21-yard fumble return and Jason Hanson kicked field goals of 47 and 50 yards for the Lions (5-2), who have won all three games against division foes. Martin Gramatica kicked a 49-yarder for the Bucs (3-4).

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Game Summary

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  • But the game turned on a series of events late in the third quarter during which Lions coach Bobby Ross challenged an apparent 12-yard touchdown toss from Eric Zeier to Warrick Dunn. The score would have cut Detroit's lead to 17-10.

    The Bucs took a delay penalty while lining up for the extra point attempt and Ross made his challenge before they could line up again. Dungy argued that Ross had waited too long, but to no avail.

    "I don't think it was administered correctly tonight," Dungy said. "You can't challenge a play after a penalty. (Referee Larry Nemmers) told me the ball was not made ready for play. But that's wrong."

    Nemmers told a pool reporter that the Lions had until the ball was snapped on the next play to make their challenge.

    "You have to give all the credit to (strength and conditioning coach) Bert Hill on that play," Ross said. "He saw it up in the booth and called down and told us that we needed to challenge it.

    "All I did is turn to the guy next to me and told him to hit it. I don't deserve any credit for that."

    The replay showed Dunn was down at the 1, and two play later, after a 5-yard false start penalty, Mike Alstott fumbled at the 1 and Chris Claiborne recovered for Detroit.

    "It was a pivotal point in the game," Zeier said. "Everyone thought we scored and the defense is on the sideline, ready to go in the game, one score down. But it was reversed and we had to deal with it."

    After the Bucs were flagged for being offsides, Hill broke a 45-yard run, setting in gear a 67-yard, six-play drive for Hanson's 50-yard field goal and a 20-3 lead with 11:34 left to play.

    Dungy had challenged a 23-yard completion from Charlie Batch to David Sloan on the first snap of the game, but Dungy lost his challenge, costing the Bucs a timeout.

    Zeier, starting in place of Trent Dilfer snapping Dilfer's string of 70 straight games was 29-of-44 for 256 yards.

    Batch was 10-of-19 for 128 yards.

    Irvin's was the first rushing touchdown allowed all season by the Bucs, who had the NFL's top rushing defense. The Bucs had allowed 69.5 yards per game and Hill also snapped a string of 12 games during which the Bucs had not allowed a rusher to gain 100 yards.

    "We couldn't stop the run and couldn't finish drives," said Bucs sack master Warren Sapp, who wasn't credited with a single tackle. "That's why we lost. Even more disappointing than that, we allowed Greg Hill to run up and down the field. That's my main concern."

    Hill was the first Lions' running back not named Barry Sanders to rush for 100 yards since Jan. 2, 1994, when Eric Lynch had 115 against Green Bay. It was the most yards by a Lions running back other than Sanders since Garry James gained 140 against Green Bay on Oct. 12, 1986.

    Zeier looked sharp early, mixing short passes with the running of Dunn, as the Bucs drove 51 yards to the Lions 17. But the drive was spoiled when Ron Rice blocked Gramatica's attempt at a 36-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the first quarter.

    Batch had third-down completions of 13 and 18 yards as the Lions took advantage of Rice's big play by driving 44 yards to set up Hanson's 47-yarder for a 3-0 lead on the fourth snap of the second quarter.

    Zeier had a 38-yard completion to Jacquez Green as the Bucs went 49 yards on their next possession to tie it 3-3 on Gramatica's kick.

    But it was all frustration the rest of the way for Tampa Bay.

    The Bucs were backed up o their own 6 when Mark Royals shanked a punt midway through the second, setting the Lions up at the Tampa Bay 36.

    A pass interference call against Donnie Abraham gave Detroit the ball at the 29 and Hill got loose for 27 yards to the 2, setting up Irvin's touchdown for a 10-3 lead.

    Things got worse for the Bucs on the second play of the third quarter when Claiborne broke through to blindside Zeier, forcing a fumble. Aldridge scooped up the ball and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead 59 seconds into the second half.

    Notes

  • The Lions, who have been hit by numerous injuries this year, made it through a game without a single player getting hurt for the first time this season. Tampa Bay also made it through the game without an injury.
  • The Lions hadn't gone successive games without allowing a touchdown since they did it to Pittsburgh and Minnesota late in the 1983 season.
  • Tampa Bay hasn't scored a touchdown in just over eight quarters, since Alstott's 22-yard run against Green Bay on Oct. 10.
  • Tampa Bay has lost nine of its last 10 regular-season games with the Lions.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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