Barry Sanders prefers to let his legs do the talking.
Still, when he does speak, the Detroit Lions pay attention.Sanders challenged each of his teammates to play a little harder, to act like they alone were responsible for winning or losing. And the Lions responded with their first win of the season, coming alive in the second half for a 27-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
"We just needed to play a good game and not make any more stupid high school mistakes," said Sanders, who had 131 yards rushing and 23 more receiving. "We've known all along that if we could get rid of those, we could get over the hump. That's all it took."
With both Green Bay and Minnesota off to 4-0 starts, it might be difficult for either the Lions (1-3) or the Bucs (1-3) to make the playofffs. But that was the least of Sanders' worries.
"To be honest, I really wasn't thinking about winning or losing when we went out there tonight," Sanders said. "I was just thinking about us playing a good game and not hurting ourselves."
The Lions got inspired play from two rookies, defensive back Terry Fair and quarterback Charlie Batch.
Fair returned a kickoff 105 yards, the longest touchdown in Lions history. Batch, in his second start, had 115 yards passing and 39 yards running. His 154 total yards were 21 more than the entire Tampa Bay offense.
"We're not playing good football," said Trent Dilfer, who completed 12-of-30 passes for 120 yards with one interception before going out with a shoulder injury. "We have the potential to be a good football team, but that doesn't mean squat unless you execute. And right now, especially offensively, we're not executing."
Bryant Westbrook scored on a 34-yard interception return and Jason Hanson, who had to assume punting duties when John Jett was injured, kicked field goals of 27 and 25 yards for Detroit.
Michael Husted kicked field goals of 43 and 47 yards for the Bucs.