TAMPA – If Friday's regular season dress rehearsal was any indication, the Detroit Lions still have plenty of work to do before the regular season opener Sept. 10 against the Jets on Monday Night Football.
With the Lions starters playing into the third quarter, Tampa Bay outscored them 27-6.
Credit Detroit's reserves, led by quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock, for bringing Detroit back in the second half to win the game.
Cassel led scoring drives of 11 and 13 plays, capped off by touchdowns from Theo Riddick (10-yard run) and Bradley Marquez (3-yard pass from Cassel), to trim the lead to 27-20 at one point early in the fourth quarter.
A Brandon Powell 80-yard punt-return touchdown in the fourth quarter made it 30-26.
Rudock came in late. He orchestrated a 10-play, 60-yard drive capped off by a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Marcus Lucas with 30 seconds left to make the final score 33-30, and give the Lions their first victory of the preseason.
But back to the Lions starters. How did it go for them?
The Bucs inserted their third-string quarterback and the backups on offense to start the third quarter, and were able to march down the field (six plays, 66 yards) and score on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin to Freddie Martino against most of the Lions starters on defense to make it 27-6.
The reserves for the Lions took over from there and were good, but as dress rehearsals go for the starters, this wasn't a great one.
Tampa Bay was more efficient on offense, especially in the red zone, where the Bucs starters were 2-for-2 scoring touchdowns. The Lions were 0-for-2, settling instead for short field goals.
Defensively, Tampa Bay recorded three sacks, four quarterback hits and four tackles for loss, as the starters upfront for the Lions' offense struggled to get much of a push most of the night.
Even Detroit's special teams was on the wrong end of a record-breaking play. Matt Prater attempted to end the first half with a 62-yard field goal, but was short, which allowed Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries to return the ball 109 yards for a touchdown to end the half.
All and all, it was another sloppy game in the preseason for the Detroit starters.
Key stat: The biggest difference in the first half between these two offenses was Tampa Bay's ability to punch the ball into the end zone when they got into the red zone. Touchdown passes to Chris Godwin (over Darius Slay) and Martino (over Nevin Lawson) made the Bucs starters 2-for-2 in that department.
A Matthew Stafford incomplete pass to Golden Tate in the end zone, and then an incomplete pass intended for Kenny Golladay, also in the end zone, led to Prater chip-shot field goals of 24 and 26 yards.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Quarterback Comparison: Stafford played a half and one series into the third quarter and finished 9 of 18 passing for 113 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 69.9.
Ryan Fitzpatrick started the game for the Bucs with Jameis Winston facing a four-game suspension to start the season. He completed six of his seven passes for 82 yards, and had a 115.5 passer rating.
Winston replaced him and was 6-for-10 passing for 60 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 110.4.
Cassel was 7-of-11 passing for 60 yards with a score for Detroit. His passer rating was 108.1.
Rudock was also very solid in relief of Cassel for the Lions. He completed nine of his 12 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown for a 112.5 passer rating.
Injury report: Lions tight end Luke Willson injured a knee and didn't return to the contest. His was the only injury reported by the Lions.
Starting offensive series in preseason:
Drive 1: 3 and out, Punt
Drive 2: 8 plays, 57 yards, FG
Drive 3: 3 and out, Punt
Drive 4: 10 plays, 69 yards, FG
Drive 5: 13 plays, 90 yards, FG
Drive 6: 3 and out, Punt
Drive 7: 6 plays, 27 yards, Missed FG
Drive 8: 6 plays 27 yards, Punt
Up next: vs. Cleveland Browns, Thurs. Aug. 30, 7 p.m.