Earnest Graham had his best day as a pro football player in his second start for Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Cape Coral Mariner and University of Florida product rejuvenated the Buccaneers’ ground game by rushing 19 times for 92 yards against the Lions. He also caught 13 passes for 99 yards.
The latter tied a team record for most receptions in a game, tying James Wilder’s club mark set on Sept. 15, 1985, against Minnesota.
Unfortunately, Graham’s production did not translate into a Buccaneers victory.
THE SUMMARY : Tampa Bay gained 422 total yards — their best output this season — and owned the football for 35 minutes, 30 seconds, but were unable to overcome the Lions in a 23-16 loss on Sunday.
Jeff Garcia threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, but a critical fumble at the Lions 1 on a snap-exchange allowed the Lions to score a touchdown and give them a lead for good. The Bucs made it close, but were unable to come up with an onside kick for a second straight kickoff with a minute left.
The Bucs committed two turnovers on Sunday, and the Lions made them count, scoring 10 points.
n BENNETT PLAYS: New acquisition Michael Bennett played in a limited fashion for the Buccaneers, carrying 3 times for 22 yards.
Bennett nearly scored for the Bucs in his first game, taking a carry 18 yards to the Lions 1 in the third quarter. But on the next play, Bucs QB Jeff Garcia fumbled the snap and the Lions recovered.
TURNOVER STORY: Tampa Bay entered Sunday’s game with one of the best turnover ratios in the NFL, a plus-6. But on Sunday the Buccaneers were unable to force a Lions turnover, while committing two of their own.
THE LIONS’ BIG FOUR: Lions receivers Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey entered the game averaging a combined 296 yards receiving per game this season. On Sunday the quartet finished with only 101 yards receiving. Johnson did score a touchdown on a reverse in the fourth quarter.
TYING A FRANCHISE RECORD: At one point Sunday, Bucs QB Jeff Garcia completed 18 straight passes, tying a franchise record.
GALLOWAY CLEARS 10,000: With a third-down reception in the third quarter, Bucs WR Joey Galloway cleared the 10,000-yard receiving mark.
Galloway finished the day with five catches for 46 yards. He now has 10,007 career receiving yards on 639 receptions.
SACK STORY: Tampa Bay’s Jovan Haye recorded his fourth sack in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. He leads the team. Veteran Kevin Carter shared a sacks with Chris Hovan in the third quarter, giving Carter 99 ½ career sacks. For Hovan, the half-sack was his first of the season.
Meanwhile, former Bucs defensive end Dewayne White had a big day against his former team, sacking Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia three times.
FIRST TD: Maurice Stovall’s 4-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was Stovall’s first score — and catch — this season.
FIRST STARTS: For the Bucs, Anthony Becht started in the place of Alex Smith for his first start this season.
For the Lions, RB Kevin Jones made his first start of the season. He rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 34 yards.
BACK IN TAMPA: DE Patrick Chukwurah, CB Brian Kelly, RB Michael Pittman and TE Alex Smith did not make the trip to Detroit for the game due to injuries. Also, the Buccaneers signed TE Keith Heinrich from the practice squad and released T Dennis Roland.
INJURIES: For the Lions, backup safety Idrees Bashir left the game in the second quarter with an apparent chest injury after absorbing a hit from Bucs RG Davin Joseph. DE Kalimba Edwards left the game in the third quarter with an unspecified injury.
For the Buccaneers, return man Mark Jones left the game in the second quarter with a sprained knee. He did not return. Ike Hilliard and Phillip Buchanon shared his duties on punts, while Torrie Cox handled Jones’ kick-return duties.
INACTIVES: Detroit: CB Stanley Wilson, DB Dovonte Edwards, TE Sean McHugh, LB Anthony Cannon, G Damien Woody, G Manny Ramirez, DE Ikaika Alama-Francis.
Tampa Bay: DB Brian Kelly, RB Michael Pittman, LB Patrick Chukwurah, LB Adam Hayward, G Dan Buenning, TE Alex Smith, DT Ryan Sims.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.