For Bucs Special Teams, It's Mostly A Day To Forget
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 22 October 2007

Lions coach Rod Marinelli wants to turn every game into a street fight, so Detroit's special teams loaded up for an early haymaker. Tampa Bay's initial possession ended with a midfield miscue as defensive tackle Corey Smith roared up the middle and smothered Josh Bidwell's punt, setting up a field goal and stoking a crowd of 60,442 at Ford Field.

'It's my fault - that one's on me,' said special teams coach Rich Bisaccia after Detroit's 23-16 triumph. 'I screwed it up. Our defense bailed us out and held them to three points, but a blocked punt is real uncharacteristic for us.'

And particularly rare for Bidwell, who made the Pro Bowl in 2005. Smith's deflection was the second block against Bidwell in 605 regular-season punts, stretching back to his rookie year with Green Bay in 1999.

'We made a mistake, and we paid for it,' Bidwell said. 'I was so focused on the ball, all I could see was a guy flash by me. I thought maybe I could kick the ball through his arms, but it didn't happen. When you hear the bang-bang, you know it's over. That was a tough one to swallow. But even with all the mistakes we made, we were still in the game. It just wasn't our day.'

The blocked punt was hardly the only setback for Bisaccia's unit. Reliable Matt Bryant, whose 43-yard field goal beat Tennessee last week, missed wide left on a 40-yard attempt late in the second quarter, following a nine-minute drive. 'That's part of football, I kind of pulled it a bit,' Bryant said. 'I probably rushed it a little.'

Late in the opening quarter, return man Mark Jones suffered a knee injury and didn't return. 'That one hurts,' Bisaccia said. 'Everyone knows how I feel, and how this entire team feels, about Mark Jones.'

The Bucs moved the ball so effectively, Bidwell was called on only twice. 'Jon Gruden called a heck of a game for the Bucs,' Marinelli said. 'They had us off balance for much of the day.'

Early in the third quarter, punting from the Lions 47, Bidwell had a chance to pin Detroit deep in its end. Instead, Bidwell's punt reached the end zone for a touchback, and the Lions promptly drove 66 yards for a field goal and a 16-7 advantage.

Tampa Bay's special teams enjoyed a few productive moments late in the game. With the Bucs trailing 23-13, Torrie Cox recovered Bryant's onside kick at the Tampa Bay 40. After Bryant nailed a 48-yard field goal with 64 seconds remaining, his second onside attempt was recovered by Lions tight end Casey FitzSimmons. 'We lined up with a number of options,' Bryant said of his final onside kick, aimed toward the right sideline. 'Torrie just missed getting there in time.'

In setting an early tone with Smith's blocked punt, the Lions were merely living up to their reputation. Since 2001, Detroit has registered an NFL-high 20 blocked kicks, including three during this season's 4-2 getaway. 'I felt all week we'd have a shot to get one today,' Marinelli said. 'It was a nice sight to see.'