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Bucs remain consistently inconsistent

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Detroit Lions have lost two games in a row, and at 6-6, their postseason chances are likely teetering on Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8), who are likely playing to save head coach Dirk Koetter's job.


Whatever the motivation, this shapes up to being an entertaining game. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston returned to the lineup last Sunday in a 26-20 loss at Green Bay and played well, passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns.

But he made one critical mistake, losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was his 50th turnover in 41 games.

Winston also was sacked seven times behind a makeshift offensive line that was missing two starters and down to its third center.

"He's limping a little bit on that ankle today, but he threw the ball as well as he's thrown it in a long time," Koetter said of Winston.

On the other side of the field is Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is battling a hand injury.

Stafford is questionable for Sunday's game, but defensive coordinator Mike Smith said the Lions' quarterback is one of the toughest players in the league. He also said his arm strength rivals any quarterback.

"He's a very difficult guy to defend," Smith said. "He's probably top three in terms of strength of arm. In terms of let's go and see how far you can throw this football, he's type three. He can flip the football off-balance a lot further than you anticipate, and it gets there a lot quicker. He is tough. He's been rocked a few times this season and he just keeps getting up. I don't know what his status will be, it's questionable. But we're anticipating he's going to go because he's one of the tougher dudes.

"I'm very impressed. I've had the opportunity to compete against him, he's a competitor. You can't get him rattled. You hit him hard and he just keeps on going. He's one of those elite quarterbacks when you start talking about the top seven or eight in the league."

The Bucs rushed for a season-high 165 yards last week at Green Bay, led by second-year pro Peyton Barber, who rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries. Doug Martin is expected to return from concussion protocol, but he may be forced to share some carries with Barber.

The Bucs haven't been very consistent this season except for their inconsistency.

"We've been consistent in pass protection until last week," Koetter said. "We've consistently moved the football offensively. We have several rankings in the top 10. We're taking the ball away, we're in the top 10 in that. Unfortunately, we have more things we've been inconsistent in."

Smith is under fire for the performance of the defense, which is last on third downs and average yards per play. Koetter was asked if Smith is to blame for such poor performance.

"That's so hard to judge because there's nothing about football that boils down to one person," Koetter said. "It's on me. It's on him. It's on everybody. Again, it's the ultimate team game. No number measures one player or one coach. That's hard to do. Everybody is graded. I tell the team all the time: We're all held accountable by somebody. We're all held accountable. But the ultimate thing is it's a team game, we're trying to win and when you don't win, nobody feels good."

SERIES HISTORY: 57th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 30-26. Since division realignment, the teams have split 4-4. In 1997, the Bucs beat the Lions in the final game at Tampa Stadium 20-10 in the NFC wild-card game.

--Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said he wouldn't answer any "negative" questions Wednesday as he attempts to stay upbeat during a 4-8 season.

"There's been so much negativity going on, if you have anything involving negativity, I'm not going to answer it," McCoy said. "There's too much bad energy, negativity going on. If you have something positive, let's talk about it. I'm done answering negative questions."

Given that, McCoy said he's excited to have three of the last four games this season at home, starting with Sunday against the Lions.

"We are in front of our fans. I know they have been disappointed with us the past few games, so we are at home. We like to put on a show for our fans, so we've just got to make sure we do that well. ... They deserve it. They send out great energy across Tampa."

--The Bucs continue to tweak their practice squad. After adding defensive end Sterling Bailey on Tuesday, on Wednesday they brought back defensive back Cody Riggs, who had been with the team in preseason. Former Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale was released to make room for Riggs.

--Defensive back Javien Elliott, a former walk-on at Florida State, said he wishes his former head coach Jimbo Fisher well at Texas A&M.

"Jimbo gave me a scholarship. I appreciate what he did," Elliott said. "I understand why he left. He has a legacy at Florida State, a national championship there. I wish him luck where he's going."

NOTES: QB Jameis Winston was added to the injury report with a sprained ankle, but had full participation Wednesday in practice. ... CB Vernon Hargreaves, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, did not practice on Wednesday. ... RB Doug Martin returned to practice with full participation Wednesday, but still is in concussion protocol. ... C Joe Hawley, who missed Sunday's game at Green Bay with an illness, did not practice Wednesday. ... DE Robert Ayers returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game at Green Bay, but still is in concussion protocol.

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