Matthew Stafford took the ball down six points with 1:02 remaining, no timeouts and 80 yards to go for a touchdown. He gave it back to Tony Romo with 12 seconds to spare.
Replay officials upheld Stafford's one-yard touchdown rush with 12 seconds remaining, as the Detroit Lions scored 24 fourth-quarter points to come from behind and defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 31-30, at Ford Field on Sunday.
Taking the ball after Dallas extended its lead to 30-24 with a 44-yard Dan Bailey field goal, Stafford wasted little time torching the Cowboys secondary. He hit Calvin Johnson for a 17-yard gain on 2nd-and-10, Kris Durham for an additional 40 following a spike and then Johnson for a second time on the drive to get the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line.
Rushing to the line as if to spike the ball, Stafford instead dove over the top of his offensive line from one yard out to tie the score at 30-30. Once the officials confirmed the call, David Akers knocked through the game-winning extra point to give the Lions a critical come-from-behind victory. A season after losing eight games by seven points or fewer, Detroit is 5-3 on the back of three one-possession wins.
Week 8 was a particularly special outing for Stafford and Johnson. The two receptions on the Lions' final drive gave Megatron 14 catches for 329 yards on the day, putting him behind only Flipper Anderson for the most receiving yards in a single game (338). SportsCenter on Twitter shared the details:
MEGATRON DOMINATES, DETROIT WINS, 31-30. Calvin Johnson: 329 Rec Yds (2nd-most rec. yards in NFL history). Stafford: 488 Pass yds, Rush TD.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 27, 2013
With Johnson battling some nagging ailments lately, Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com shared this quote from head coach Jim Schwartz:
Jim Schwartz on Calvin Johnson: "Just wait until he's 100 percent."— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) October 27, 2013
He also caught a two-yard touchdown pass with 0:54 remaining in the first quarter to give the Lions their first lead of the game at 7-0.
Megatron accounted for about two-thirds of Stafford's 488 passing yards, the fifth time in the Lions quarterback's career he's gone over the 400-yard mark.
Johnson, who set the NFL single-season receiving mark last season, has now had two mammoth games in a row. His 484 yards over the past two weeks are more than he had over Detroit's first six combined.
Calvin Johnson is the greatest receiver in the history of the NFL! #dropsthemic— Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) October 27, 2013
Moving the ball well the entire contest, the Lions dominated in nearly every statistical facet of the game. They held possession for 35:11, outgained Dallas 623-268 and punted just four times compared to the Cowboys' seven.
Dallas stayed in the game only by virtue of the Lions' mental errors and turnovers. Stafford threw two second-quarter interceptions, both of which were in Cowboys territory.
Sean Lee returned the second interception 74 yards to the Detroit 4-yard line, allowing Romo to bring the Cowboys ahead 10-7 with 0:46 remaining in the second quarter with a pass to Dez Bryant.
Romo and Bryant connected for a 50-yard score in the fourth quarter as well, but it will be their verbal war of words that will be the talk of the town. Bryant, who finished with three catches for 72 yards, was seen yelling at Cowboys coaches, Romo and tight end Jason Witten during the second half.
As noted by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Bryant came particularly unhinged as the Lions drove in for the game-winning score:
Its getting crazy heated on the sidelines with Dez Bryant, again. He's losing it, jawing with coaches, going at it verbally with Witten.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 27, 2013
A majority of his scorn seemed directed at Romo. Although he threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns, Romo struggled with inaccuracies throughout the game. He completed only 14 of his 30 passes and favored rookie Terrance Williams to Bryant, 10 targets to six. With Williams grabbing only two of those 10 throws, the Cowboys offense sputtered against a Lions defense that came in ranked 28th in yards allowed.
Mike Fisher of Fox Sports Southwest reported that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had a meeting with Bryant and owner Jerry Jones sat down with Witten after the game to discuss their sideline behavior.
Garrett had a private locker-room meeting w Dez. Meanwhile, Jerry had same w Witten. @cowboys— mike fisher (@fishsports) October 27, 2013
According to Gillian Van Stratt of MLive.com, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn't concerned with Bryant's behavior:
Jerry Jones said 'not in any way' did Dez Bryant sideline rant concern him, in fact he feels they started playing better after it happened.— Gillian Van Stratt (@van_stratt) October 27, 2013
Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson also lost fumbles deep inside Dallas territory in the third quarter, which Romo could not take advantage of. The Cowboys made only three points on those possessions, but those mistakes cost Detroit near-guaranteed field goals and allowed Dallas to cling to a lead for almost the entire second half despite its struggles.
Without DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle managed only 26 yards on 14 carries. Bush, despite his fumble, had a nice day, rushing for 92 yards on 21 carries and a one-yard touchdown to make the score 27-24 in favor of Dallas with 3:33 remaining.
The Cowboys, with their locker room fractured, are now 4-4 and have lost three of their four contests away from home. They still hold a one-game lead in the NFC East by virtue of the Philadelphia Eagles' loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, but this team will need to repair its league-worst pass defense if it hopes to contend.
At 5-3, the Lions could take sole possession of first-place in the NFC North if things bounce their way. The Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings this week, and Detroit would take a half-game lead should Minnesota pull off the upset.
But either way, with Jim Schwartz's squad already eclipsing its 2012 win total, there is plenty reason for optimism in the Motor City.
The Cowboys will look to recoup from their crushing loss when they host Minnesota next Sunday. Detroit has a week off before it heads to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears on Nov. 10.
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