DETROIT — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers averaged 177 yards on the ground in their previous three games before running into a stout Detroit rush defense Sunday.
Running back Bobby Rainey, who garnered NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after gouging the Falcons for 163 yards and scoring three touchdowns, was limited to only 35 yards on 18 carries.
“I think Detroit stormed the castle,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “They had guys in every gap.”
Tampa Bay finished with 22 net rushing yards in 24 attempts, forcing rookie quarterback Mike Glennon into some unfavorable third-down situations.
“Last week, the offense came through, scoring 41 points,’’ guard Davin Joseph said. “This week, Detroit keyed into our run game and shut us down, putting us in third-and-long all day. The Lions have a tough front and they made it hard on us, but our defense stepped up. We probably played our most complete game of the year ... and we needed every bit of it.”
A week after generating national headlines, Rainey couldn’t find consistent running lanes against a defense anchored by tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
“You’re going to have your downs, but you can’t get discouraged from that,’’ Rainey said. “You just have to continue to fight and keep lifting your teammates up.’’
Adventures on special teams
If you listened very closely Sunday, you could hear Buccaneers special teams coach Dave Wannstedt breathing hard in the second half at Ford Field.
In a game of quick-shifting momentum, Tampa Bay’s special teams took turns producing groans and cheers along the Bucs sideline.
Late in the third quarter, with Tampa Bay trailing 21-17, returner Eric Page fielded a punt at his 3-yard line and was tackled 2 yards later. When Page reached the sideline, head coach Greg Schiano was waiting for him with some choice words, urging better judgment,
That gaffe was erased minutes later when rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and Tiquan Underwood hooked up for an 85-yard touchdown pass that provided the winning margin in Tampa Bay’s third consecutive victory.
On Detroit’s ensuing possession, Bucs cornerback Danny Gorrer broke free and blocked a punt virtually right off the foot of Sam Martin. Spencer Larsen’s 11-yard return set Tampa Bay up at the Lions 11, but the Bucs failed to capitalize as Rian Lindell missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
“Give Dekoda Watson credit on the blocked punt,’’ said Gorrer, who added five tackles and a key forced fumble. “He cleaned out the whole left side and left me with a clear path. I just wanted to make sure I got it.’’
A week ago, it was Watson who charged in off the edge and blocked a punt against Atlanta.
The Buccaneers have blocked five punts during the past two seasons, the most in the NFL.
Lindell, signed in August after Connor Barth suffered a torn Achilles, was also wide left on a 50-yard field goal try that could have given Tampa Bay a six-point lead with 3:49 remaining.
Lavonte David continued his stellar play as the second-year outside linebacker from Nebraska was all over the stat sheet once again. Tampa Bay’s leading tackler made a game-high 12 stops against the Lions, adding an interception and a forced fumble.
“I feel like I got it started,’’ said David, referring to his first-quarter pick of a Matthew Stafford pass intended for Nate Burleson that was deflected by cornerback Leonard Johnson.
The interception was David’s second this season, to go with five sacks. He is one of only six Bucs players with at least five sacks and two interceptions in a season, joining defensive end Gaines Adams (2008), cornerback Ronde Barber (2000), defensive end Simeon Rice (2003), defensive tackle Warren Sapp (2002) and linebacker Broderick Thomas (1992).
“I’m very proud of the effort by all the guys in our room,” David said. “Everybody was talking all week about the players Detroit has ... nobody talked about who we’ve got. We’ve got leaders everywhere and once this season finishes out and we roll over into 2014, we’re going to hit the ground running.”