TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew it was only a matter of time before opponents started stacking the line of scrimmage in hopes of slowing down Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.
The Detroit Lions were successful at it Sunday, but containing the rookie also left them vulnerable to other playmakers in an improved offense that’s helped the resurgent Bucs to their first 4-0 start since 1997.
“We have all kinds of weapons,” Pittman said. “Cadillac started off great the first three games. He was hurt today and really wasn’t 100 percent, but we still went out there and played.”
Galloway scored on an 80-yard reception and Brian Griese also threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Pittman, a starter the last three seasons whose role in the offense has diminished since the arrival of Williams.
“I need to make the most of it when I can,” said Pittman, who had six receptions for 96 yards and ran five times for a team-high 30 yards.
The Lions had trouble moving the ball on offense all day, but Joey Harrington led a drive from his own 7 to the Tampa Bay 11 in the last five minutes.
Detroit (1-2) thought it would escape with a victory when Harrington found Marcus Pollard in the right corner of the end zone, but the tight end’s sliding catch was reversed by instant replay.
Harrington found Mike Williams on the opposite side of the end zone on the next play, but the rookie came down out of bounds. The fourth-year quarterback had one more chance but overthrew Roy Williams on the last play of the game.
“There’s no moral victories. That’s not going to happen,” Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. “We feel sick in that locker room because we thought we won it, and it was not to be. … It tests your resiliency.”
Cadillac Williams, the first player in NFL history to begin his career with three consecutive 100-yard days rushing, was held to 13 yards on 11 carries. He left the game late in the third quarter and did not return.
“Everything is OK. He had a mild hamstring,” Bucs coach Jon Gruden said, noting that Williams also was limited in practice during the week because of a foot sprain. “And the fact that Pittman was playing pretty well … we chose to go another route today.”
Griese threw for 302 yards and made up for three turnovers that set up all of Detroit’s points with his TD throws to Pittman and Galloway, who had seven receptions for a career-high 166 yards.
The Lions turned Griese’s first-quarter fumble into Jason Hanson’s 44-yard field goal. Linebacker Teddy Lehman returned an interception 17 yards to the Bucs 8, setting up Kevin Jones’s 8-yard TD run that put the Lions ahead 10-3.
Pittman’s TD made it 10-10 at the half, and Griese hit Galloway on a slant pattern early in the third quarter to put the Bucs ahead for good. Terrence Holt returned Detroit’s third interception of Griese 51 yards to the Tampa Bay 23, setting up a 23-yard field goal that trimmed the Lions’ deficit to 17-13 midway through the fourth.
Harrington was 15-of-27 for 137 yards and no interceptions. He said it was frustrating to not get the offense on track until the last drive.
“They’re a great defense for a reason,” Harrington said. “Our whole mind-set, our whole game plan was to pound it at them and keep pounding until they broke. We came up short.”
Pollard felt he made what would have been a game-winning TD catch before sliding out of bounds.
“It’s pretty simple. I think I made the catch, but the official in the press box didn’t see it that way, and that’s what we’ve got to go by,” Pollard said.
The Bucs, obviously, were relieved.
“Thank God for instant replay,” Gruden said.
The Lions were outgained 353 yards to 226. … Griese finished 22-of-39 and threw three interceptions. He also was sacked three times. … Bucs LB Shelton Quarles sprained his left wrist in the first quarter but returned to finish with 10 tackles. … Bucs CB Ronde Barber had his 19th career sack. He needs one more to become the first player in NFL history with 20 sacks and 20 interceptions.