Lions vs Cowboys: 6 Things We Learned from Detroit's 34-30 Win
I'm not going to lie to you guys. I started writing this in the third quarter, with the idea that the Lions were going to lose this game.
I apologize for my lack of faith. I am repenting for it now as I re-write half of this piece. I promise it won't happen again.
As with any comeback win, it couldn't happen without some poor play early in the game. And while we'll focus on some of that today, I can't help but jump straight to the first and greatest point of this game.
These Detroit Lions Are NEVER out of the Game
It's all about the Detroit Lions being a great football team. And there was never more of a opportunity for the Lions to pack it in than when they allowed a backbreaking touchdown early in the third quarter to run the score to 27-3.
Then Tony Romo threw two more touchdown passes, and the Lions got the score back to 27-17.
Calvin Johnson took over from there, and the rest is history.
The Cowboys did a lot to facilitate this comeback (like abandoning the running game with a 24-point lead), but the Lions made the plays to win this game, without question.
And if the Lions go down by 30 next week, I still expect them to win. No hole is too deep for this team.
The Secondary Isn't Actually Elite
Now the bad news. The secondary made some great plays late in this game, but they were vulnerable for most of it.
They let up two touchdowns to Dez Bryant, put Laurent Robinson on the map and gave Tony Romo a 300-yard game (no, that's not including interception return yardage).
In short, they made the Cowboys' shorthanded passing offense look Super Bowl-caliber.
They shut Romo down in the second half (or rather they caught all his touchdown passes), which is the most important thing.
They stepped up when it counted. But they still let Romo go 34-47 with some good statistical numbers.
The Lions Need to Work on Their... Pass Rush?
Had you told me a month ago that the Lions would start the season 4-0 after back-to-back comebacks on the road of 20 or more, all while struggling to put pressure on the quarterback, well, do I really need to tell you what I would have thought about that?
And yet here we are. Tony Romo got touched approximately three times in the game. One was a sack by Willie Young, which basically put the game out of reach late. Another was flagged keeping a drive alive, and the other was when he got blocked during an interception return.
The point is, Romo was kept clean for most of the game, and this was supposed to be a suspect offensive line. They neutralized the Lions' pass rush, which was supposed to be the brightest spot on the whole team.
Through four games, the Lions have been no more than average up front. I know that sounds like sacrilege, but they haven't ramped up consistent QB pressure, and they haven't stopped the run.
Perhaps getting Nick Fairley in the lineup will help.
Maybe the QB Hits Aren't All the Line's Fault
You know what? Matthew Stafford had good protection today, but he still got hit a whole bunch.
Stuff like that gets me thinking maybe it's wrong to place all the blame on the line. Stafford was holding the ball an awful long time, whether he had time or not.
And he often had time.
I don't know if it's Stafford, always trying to make something out of nothing, or if it's Linehan calling plays Martz-style, with long-developing pass patterns.
But it may not always be the line. They played well today (though I've all but given up on a run game), but Stafford still got knocked around a fair deal.
In particular, there's one guy who deserves some recognition...
Jeff Backus Has Obvious Value
Matthew Stafford took some licks in this game, but here's a name you didn't hear all day: DeMarcus Ware.
Actually, check that. You heard his name once, when Jeff Backus came out of the game for a couple of plays. Corey Hilliard, in relief of Backus, immediately got blown up by Ware, who delivered a shot to Stafford.
Now, Hilliard was coming in cold, without even any time to stretch. But what Backus did effectively all day, Hilliard was unable to do for even one play.
Did Backus play a perfect game? No. Did he make up for imploding last week against Jared Allen? Partially, not completely.
But he played well today, and he deserves credit for that. I called him out last week after a poor performance, so it's only fair to give credit where due today.
Calvin Johnson Is the Best Thing Ever
I don't need to analyze this. Just go watch this.
That was one of his usual two touchdowns today. At this rate, he should meet his career high in Week 6, and surpass the NFL record around Week 12.
I think Jim Schwartz put it best after the game. "I'm glad the third-best receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," he said.