Originally created 08/29/98

Lions devour Buccaneers



PONTIAC, Mich. -- It was a big night for Detroit rookies, and the Lions got their first victory.

Rookie defensive back Terry Fair returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, and rookie quarterback Charlie Batch scored on a sneak as the Lions beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-6 Monday night.

Fair's kickoff return that broke the game open in the fourth quarter was the longest touchdown in the history of the Lions. Batch, in his second start, completed 14-of-23 passes for 115 yards and scored on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter.

He also rushed for 39 yards on eight carries as the Lions won for the first time in four games.

Batch's total offense was 154 yards. Tampa's Bay's team total was 133.

Bryant Westbrook scored on a 34-yard interception return, and Jason Hanson, who had to assume punting duties when John Jett was injured, kicked field goals of 27 and 25 yards for the Lions.

Michael Husted kicked field goals of 43 and 47 yards for the Bucs (1-3), whose playoff hopes might also be in jeopardy because both Green Bay and Minnesota both are in the NFC Central.

Barry Sanders, with his second 100-yard game of the season, rushed for 131 yards on 27 carries and had 23 yards receiving.

Trent Dilfer was 12-of-30 for 120 yards with one interception for the Bucs.

The game was held up for 10 minutes in the second quarter after rookie Tampa Bay receiver Brice Hunter was injured during a helmet-to-helmet collision with Detroit's Mark Carrier. Hunter was carried from the field on a stretcher and evaluated at the POH Medical Center emergency trauma center.

Hunter had full use of all extremities, and was expected to be released late Monday night.

The Lions had luck on their side, too. With 1:42 left in the third quarter, Dilfer hit Karl Williams in the end zone with a 24-yard touchdown pass that would have closed the gap to 20-10. But the play was waved off by a delay penalty. Robert Porcher broke in to sack Dilfer on the next play, and the Bucs punted.

With 10:44 left in the fourth quarter, Dilfer hit Dave Moore for another apparent touchdown, but Dilfer was flagged for being beyond the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. The Bucs settled for Husted's second field goal.

But Fair, whose muffed punt had set up the Bucs' score, made up for it in hurry by returning the ensuing kickoff for a 27-6 lead.

Batch, as he did in his debut at Minnesota, moved the Lions fairly well in the first half, keeping the Bucs off balance with his scrambling.

But the results were the same. Batch couldn't get Detroit into the end zone, so the Lions had to settle for a pair of field goals and a 6-3 halftime lead.

And the Bucs, as they did a week earlier against Chicago, seemed to slumber through the first two quarters. The Bucs had only 85 yards at halftime, compared with 170 for Detroit.

On that occasion, the Bucs snapped back for 27 second-half points and won going away. This time, it was the Lions who came to life.

On the third snap of the third quarter, Westbrook stepped in front of Williams for Detroit's first turnover of the season. Westbrook, with no one in front of him, zipped down the sideline for the touchdown and a 13-3 Detroit lead.

Still fired up, the Lions defense forced Tampa Bay to go three-and-out.

Then Sanders got going. He gained six yards on a first-down carry. On the next play, he broke away on one of his patented twisting, turning runs for 42 yards to the Bucs' 3.

Batch finally got the Lions an offensive touchdown with a 1-yard sneak on fourth down for a 20-3 lead.