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THE 1996 NFL

Lions Give Buccaneers That Tired Feeling

NFC: Blades gets razzed after sluggishly scoring on 98-yard interception return in 27-0 rout that keeps Tampa Bay winless.

September 30, 1996|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Bennie Blades' determination was stronger than his legs.

The Detroit safety returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown Sunday to help the Lions beat the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-0, and give his coach and teammates a few laughs when he started to run out of gas.

"He took off like the Bennie Blades of old," Coach Wayne Fontes joked.

"After 20 yards, he was running like me. . . . Then, for the last 20 yards, he looked like one of those big wrestlers with a piano on his back. He said he wanted to slow down and straight-arm the quarterback, but I don't believe that."

Trent Dilfer caught up to the 30-year-old Detroit safety at the Tampa Bay 28 but couldn't make the tackle. Blades used a stiff-arm to push Dilfer down and trotted into the end zone.

"The guys are still riding me about that," Blades said. "Any time a QB has a slight angle, you need to be sure you don't get caught. The old man in me said that I had to push this man off me."

Scott Mitchell threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and the Lions (3-2) forced four Tampa Bay turnovers to beat the Buccaneers (0-5) for the second time in four weeks.

Barry Sanders has rushed for more yards against Tampa Bay (1,763) than any opponent. He gained 73 yards in 15 carries this time, but didn't hurt the Buccaneers as much as he did in running for 125 in a 21-6 victory on Sept. 10.

Instead, it was a day for the Detroit defense, which held the Buccaneers to 74 yards in the second half. Blades' return was the third longest in team history.

"Our defense is not a stifling one," Fontes said. "We give up big yards, but we make plays when we have to."

Dilfer had an interception returned for a touchdown for the third time in four weeks and compounded the mistake when he couldn't tackle Blades.

Mitchell completed 21 of 32 passes, including touchdown throws of 31 yards to Johnnie Morton and three yards to Herman Moore, who had nine receptions for 104 yards.

Despite trailing, 17-0, at the half, Tampa Bay had outgained Detroit 152 yards to 139 and controlled the ball for more than 21 minutes.

The Lions did a better job of stopping the run after halftime and continued to frustrate Dilfer, who was 14 for 26 for 119 yards and was sacked twice.

"I never thought this would happen," Dilfer said of Tampa Bay's 0-5 start. "But we are, and that's what you've got to deal with. You whip it by not making excuses and not dividing the team."

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