Greg Hill made Tampa Bay's defense look human and the Buccaneers also lost the battle of challenges to the Detroit Lions tonight.
Hill rushed for 123 yards and Sedrick Irvin scored on a two-yard run as the Lions rolled to a 20-3 victory in a key NFC Central matchup.
Allen Aldridge scored on a 21-yard fumble return and Jason Hanson kicked field goals of 47 and 50 yards for the Lions (5-2), who have won all three games against division foes. Martin Gramatica kicked a 49-yarder for the Bucs (3-4).
But the game turned on a series of events late in the third quarter during which Lions Coach Bobby Ross challenged an apparent 12-yard touchdown toss from Eric Zeier to Warrick Dunn. The score would have cut Detroit's lead to 17-10.
The Bucs took a delay penalty while lining up for the extra point attempt and Ross made his challenge before they could line up again. Bucs Coach Tony Dungy argued that Ross had waited too long, but to no avail.
"I don't think it was administered correctly tonight," Dungy said. "You can't challenge a play after a penalty. [Referee Larry Nemmers] told me the ball was not made ready for play. But that's wrong."
Nemmers told a pool reporter that the Lions had until the ball was snapped on the next play to make their challenge.
"You have to give all the credit to [strength and conditioning coach] Bert Hill on that play," Ross said. "He saw it up in the booth and called down and told us that we needed to challenge it.
"All I did is turn to the guy next to me and told him to hit it. I don't deserve any credit for that."
The replay showed Dunn was down at the 1, and two plays later, after a five-yard false start penalty, Mike Alstott fumbled at the 1 and Chris Claiborne recovered for Detroit.
After the Bucs were flagged for being offside, Hill broke a 45-yard run, setting in gear a 67-yard, six-play drive for Hanson's 50-yard field goal and a 20-3 lead with 11 minutes 34 seconds left to play.
Dungy had challenged a 23-yard completion from Charlie Batch to David Sloan on the first snap of the game, but Dungy lost his challenge, costing the Bucs a timeout.
Zeier, starting in place of Trent Dilfer--snapping Dilfer's string of 70 straight games--was 29 of 44 for 256 yards. Batch was 10 of 19 for 128 yards.
Irvin's was the first rushing touchdown allowed all season by the Bucs and Hill's big game snapped a string of 12 games during which the Bucs had not allowed a rusher to gain 100 yards.
Hill was the first Lions running back not named Barry Sanders to rush for 100 yards since Jan. 2, 1994, when Eric Lynch had 115 against Green Bay. It was the most yards by a Lions running back other than Sanders since Garry James gained 140 yards against Green Bay on Oct. 12, 1986.