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Turner Sparks Tampa Bay, 24-14 : NFC: His 80-yard punt return for a touchdown is the first for the Buccaneers. Sanders gains 166 yards, but Lions lose.

October 03, 1994|From Associated Press

TAMPA — For the last 25 yards of Vernon Turner's sprint up the sideline, the only question was whether he or Tampa Bay special teams coach George Stewart would reach the end zone first.

Turner ran a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown--the first kick of any kind the Buccaneers have returned for a score in the club's 18-year history--to provide the spark for Sunday's 24-14 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The fourth-year pro, criticized the first month of the season for spending too much time running from sideline to sideline, settled under Greg Montgomery's 50-yard punt at his own 20 and used a stutter-step move to get past the first wave of defenders.

He turned up the right sideline and got key blocks from Jeff Brady and former USC tailback Mazio Royster, who knocked Montgomery out of the play, and scored untouched. Stewart, who was racing up the sideline alongside Turner, tackled the former Detroit return man in the end zone.

The crowd of 38,012, aware of Tampa Bay's history, roared. It was the 1,320th punt by a Tampa opponent and the 705th punt the team had returned. Later, Rogerick Green blocked Montgomery's punt and Brady recovered at the Lions' 2-yard line in the third quarter. That was Tampa Bay's first blocked punt in five seasons and the celebration was on again.

Errict Rhett scored two plays later for a 24-14 lead.

Detroit threatened to come back in the fourth quarter, but Jason Hanson missed a 26-yard field goal attempt with 6:28 left and Brett Perriman lost a fumble at the Tampa Bay 4-yard line about two minutes later.

Detroit (2-3) unleashed Barry Sanders and cut its deficit to 17-14 at the half. But the blocked punt, missed field goal and Perriman's fumble killed the Lions' hopes of coming back all the way.

Sanders set up Derrick Moore's 5-yard touchdown run with an 85-yard sprint--the longest run of his career--up the right sideline. He had 166 yards in 20 carries.

It was Sanders' seventh 100-yard game against the Buccaneers.

The Lions are 4-3 in those games but they've lost in four of their last five visits.

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