The Detroit Lions went into Tampa and beat the Buccaneers, 20-6, back in Week 6. Now the two teams, winners of their respective NFC divisions, will rematch in Ford Field in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Sunday.
Both Lions head coach Dan Campbell and Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles know not to expect a replay of the first matchup. The Buccaneers are playing some very sharp football lately, coming from third place and 4-6 after Week 11 to win the NFC South.
“We were where we were at that time of the year,” Bowles said via Rick Stroud of TampaBay.com. “I don’t wish we would’ve done anything different or we wouldn’t have learned from it. They’re a very good team. They’re coached very well. Very fast, very physical. An electric crowd is going to be up there. Wish we hadn’t done anything different, but we’ve got to learn from it.”
“We’re a different team now. We’re mentally tougher. I think we’ve gotten stronger from it, and we learned some things. We’re still piecing it together, but we’re happy where we’re at.”
Bowles can look at Monday night for validation. The Eagles had beaten the Buccaneers, 25-11, on Monday Night Football in Week 3 in Tampa Bay. The Bucs dominated the rematch in the wild card round, however. Bowles’ team won 32-9 and it wasn’t that close of a contest, either.
His Lions counterpart agrees. Campbell noted on Wednesday,
“They’re another one of these hottest teams going getting into the playoffs. So, they’re doing things right. They had to find a way to get over the hump and clean a few things up, but they never got panicked and never went in the tank.”
Or, as Campbell succinctly surmised,
“This is a better team than when we faced them. They’re playing better football, but we’re better too.”