TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Detroit Lions erased some painful memories by ending the longest road losing streak in NFL history.
Dave Rayner’s third field goal, a 34-yarder with 9:51 left in overtime, gave Detroit a 23-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and stopped a three-year skid at 26 games on Sunday.
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“It’s really not a relief, but it’s important for this team to win on the road,” second-year coach Jim Schwartz said.
“What’s happened two years ago, what happened last year, three years ago, whatever it was, isn’t important to this football team right now,” Schwartz added. “Winning is important to this football team right now. Winning on the road is a step that we needed to take.”
Rayner kicked a 28-yarder as time expired in regulation to force the extra period. The Lions took the overtime kickoff and drove 63 yards — covering most of the distance on two big runs and a 12-yard reception by Calvin Johnson on third-and-8 — to set up the game-winner.
The Lions (4-10) triumphed on the road for the first time since Oct. 28, 2007, when they won 16-7 at Chicago.
“It feels great to be on the road, get a win and go back on the plane and have a good week,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely good to bury that.”
At the same time, Detroit dealt a blow to Tampa Bay’s playoff’s hopes.
The Bucs, who had been 5-0 in games decided by three points or fewer, failed to take advantage of a loss by the New York Giants — one of the teams they’re chasing in the wild-card race — by losing for the first time in nine tries against an opponent with a losing record.
“It hurts just to know what we had in front of us,” Tampa Bay running Cadillac Williams said. “We need a lot of help, but I’ve seen a lot of weird things in this league.”
The Bucs (8-6) kicked the second of two fourth-quarter field goals to go ahead 20-17 with 1:39 remaining left in regulation.
“Are they still in the playoffs?” said Lions center Dominic Raiola, whose younger brother, Donovan, is a backup center with Tampa Bay. “Are they getting ready, making vacation plans now, like us? I hope so.”
Drew Stanton completed 23 of 37 passes for 252 yards, one touchdown for the Lions. Johnson finished with 10 receptions for 152 yards, becoming the first Detroit player with two seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 12 or more TD receptions.
Maurice Morris rushed for 109 yards, including a 26-yard burst on the first play of overtime. Jahvid Best ran for 14 on the next play for a first down at the Bucs 39.
Three plays later, Johnson reached high to make his last catch of the day, barely keeping his feet inbound on the sideline at 25.
“I can’t help but think that this is a game that we maybe don’t win early in the season,” Schwartz said. “We’re becoming a battle-hardened team. This is a franchise that hasn’t been used to playing a lot of close games, and this year we have. We’ve learned from a lot of those.”
Stanton threw a 10-yard TD pass to Nate Burleson in the first quarter and Morris scored on a 10-yard run early in the third quarter to give Detroit a 17-14 lead that held until Josh Freeman brought Tampa Bay back with what seemed like would be another successful fourth-quarter rally.
The Lions forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal that made it 17-17 after Freeman led his team to a first-and-goal at the 1.
Tampa Bay hurt itself with Kellen Winslow drawing an offensive pass interference penalty that nullified what would have been a go-ahead 2-yard TD reception by the tight end.
Undeterred, Freeman led the Bucs to another field goal on their next possession, handing a 20-17 lead to a defense that suddenly was unable to slow down Stanton, who was making his third start in place of the injured Matthew Stafford.
Johnson also figured prominently in both of Detroit’s first-half scoring drives with receptions of 20 and 16 yards to set up Stanton’s TD pass to Burleson.
Johnson also had receptions of 30 yards and 17 yards to help the Lions get into position for Rayner’s 41-yard field goal that trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 14-10.
At 6-foot-6 and nearly 250 pounds, Freeman is one of the biggest and strongest quarterbacks in the NFL. The Lions sacked him three times, but the second-year pro also used his strength and mobility to turn potential negative plays into positive ones.
Tampa Bay’s LeGarrette Blount broke a tackle and rambled for 39 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, one play after Freeman somehow managed to get off a pass with Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh draped around him and fullback Earnest Graham turned it into a 14-yard gain into Detroit territory.
Freeman, who has led an NFL-leading five fourth-quarter comebacks this season, completed 21 of 32 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown — a 24-yard throw to Mike Williams, who set a franchise record for rookies with his eighth TD.
Blount finished with 110 yards rushing on 15 attempts.
“It’s rough to lose a close game like that, to lose a game that we felt like we definitely should have won,” Freeman said. “But it’s not a death blow, I guess, from a mathematical standpoint.”
NOTES: Neither team had a turnover. … The Lions averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the way to rushing for 181 yards … Williams, who leads NFL rookies in reception yardage, finished with six catches for 96 yards.