TAMPA, Fla. — Starters for both teams were long gone before the Detroit Lions rallied for their first preseason victory under coach Matt Patricia, leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a loss that didn't feel like a loss.
"They keep score, so you want to win the game," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "But our first two groups played well. ... We've just got to finish the game a little better."
Brandon Powell scored on an 80-yard punt return and Jake Rudock threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas with 30 seconds remaining to give the Lions a 33-30 victory Friday night.
Detroit (1-2) rallied from a 21-point third-quarter deficit, after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and regulars from both teams departed.
Theo Riddick scored on a 10-yard run and Matt Cassel threw a 3-yard TD pass to Bradley Marquez to begin the comeback.
Adam Humphries returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown for Tampa Bay, which led 20-6 at halftime and extended the lead to three touchdowns early in the third quarter.
"I think our guys know we're making progress as a football team," said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who's encouraged by the way his offense has performed in the preseason. "We're executing at a pretty high level. ... That starts with the quarterbacks."
Ryan Fitzpatrick was sharp in what may have been his final tuneup for the regular season, which the Bucs will begin in two weeks without suspended quarterback Jameis Winston, who's banned three games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Fitzpatrick, entering his 14th season, went 6 for 7 for 82 yards before he was replaced by Winston early in the second quarter. Winston also worked one quarter, throwing a 10-yard TD pass to Chris Godwin and finishing 6 of 10 for 60 yards with no interceptions.
Stafford played into the third quarter for the Lions, producing a pair of field goals in his most extensive work of the preseason. The 10th-year pro, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 113 yards, moved the Lions 69 yards in 10 plays to set up Matt Prater's 24-yard field goal. He put together a 13-play, 90-yard drive to produce another short field goal.
"I felt pretty good out there. I felt like I was seeing it well," Stafford said. "Obviously, every time I go play I want one or two back, and today was no different."
Humphries' field goal return came on Prater's 62-yard miss on the final play on the first half. He started up the middle of the field, cut to the right to avoid a potential tackler before turning back to his left and racing toward midfield, where he cut to his right again and into the clear.
"I knew it was going to be short and I knew there was an opportunity to return it.," Humphries said. "We actually repped that in practice about 2 1-2 weeks ago. So, I'm glad coach Koetter called a timeout and was able to get me in there, and the defense did a great job blocking for me."
Bucs third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin, who'll back up Fitzpatrick during Winston's suspension, threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Martino in the third quarter. The fifth-year pro who's never taken a snap in a regular-season game finished 8 of 11 for 100 yards and no interceptions.
Cassel was seven of 11 for 60 yards for the Lions.
The start of the game was delayed 59 minutes because of lightning and heavy rain. Players left the field and fans were directed to seek cover in concourses, ramps and club seat dining areas at Raymond James Stadium about 40 minutes before the scheduled 8 p.m. kickoff. When the storm cleared, the teams returned to field for player introductions and a 20-minute warmup period before the national anthem.
Lions: TE Luke Willson (knee) left in the first half and did not return.
Buccaneers: They played without three starting offensive linemen —T Donovan Smith, G Ali Marpet and G Caleb Benenoch — as well as starting DT Beau Allen and S Justin Evans. First-round draft pick DT Vita Vea, sidelined most of training camp with a calf injury, did not dress for the third straight game. LB Devante Bond (foot) and S Keith Tandy (hamstring) left during the first half and did not return.
Lions: Close the preseason at home against Cleveland next Thursday.
Buccaneers: Play final game before Winston's suspension begins, hosting Jacksonville on Thursday.