The Detroit Lions went down to Dallas and completed a second straight 20-plus point comeback victory by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 34-30 in Jerry Jones’ $1.5 billion dollar playpen; giving Matthew Stafford, Chris Houston and Bobby Carpenter a homecoming they will not soon forget.
For many high-schools around the country, it’s also homecoming season; a time when hormone-fueled teenagers travel in packs for dinner reservations at local Olive Gardens with the intent of frivolity and romance as the evening progresses.
The game started like most awkward homecoming dates do, forgettable. Stafford’s second attempt sailed high and behind Calvin Johnson and Dallas cornerback Gerald Sensabaugh’s first interception of the year dashed the hopes of a quick start for the Lions. Six plays later, Dez Bryant beat Austin, TX native Chris Houston on a 25-yard fly-route down the right sideline and Dallas took an early 7-0 lead.
The rest of the first half played very similarly to the first drive for both teams. Stafford was attacked relentlessly by Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense. Of the 23 pass attempts Stafford made in the first half, he was knocked down seven times and hit seven more. For those of you without an abacus, that’s 14-of-23 attempts. Stafford had a better chance of calling the opening coin flip than staying upright against the blitzing defense unleashed by the ‘Boys.
Chris Houston’s first half was not any better. He was burned early and often by Tony Romo and the Dallas receivers. Besides Bryant’s 25 yard grab; Laurent Robinson, who had totaled a whopping three receptions going into the contest, posted a career-best seven catches for 116 yards and beat Houston for a 44 yard post-route that led to Bryant’s second TD reception.
The Cowboys had now built a 14-point cushion and aside from Jason Hanson’s 33-yard field goal; it was all Dallas at halftime, 20-3.
Nearly five minutes and another Dallas touchdown into the second half, the momentum slowly began to swing. Bobby Carpenter, the former first-round pick of the Cowboys, intercepted Romo and returned it for a touchdown, trimming the deficit to 27-10. Carpenter, one of Romo’s groomsmen this past offseason, was pressed into action this week with starter Justin Durant still suffering from a concussion against the Vikings.
The script continued to flip on the Cowboys' next possession. Chris Houston got his revenge as he stepped in front of Laurent Robinson for Romo’s second interception and raced down the left sideline for another defensive touchdown that cut the lead to 27-17.
As with all homecomings, there must be a King; Stafford was about to be fitted for his crown. The Highland Park, TX native (who had so many requests for tickets this week, he had to reserve a suite for his throng) and Calvin Johnson took over the game.
Stafford went 21-of-43, 240 yards, two TDs and one INT, while Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns to help complete the heroic comeback.
The 23-yard snare in the back of the end-zone between three defenders was ridiculous, but oddly, within the realm of normalcy for the only receiver in NFL history to catch two touchdowns in each of the first four games of the season.
“I’m glad the third best receiver on the Cowboys is on our team,” Jim Schwartz retorted with wry conviction at the post-game press conference.
As for that second touchdown, it came with only 1:44 remaining. With the Lions having 1st-and-goal at the Dallas 2-yard line, Rob Ryan cleverly left Terrance Newman one-on-one with the All-Pro wideout. Stafford audibled, with Madden 12 quickness and ease, out of the run play and lobbed a back-shoulder toss to Megatron for the game winner.
Towards the end of the game, the Cowboys faithful began chanting “Let’s Go Lions…” Are you kidding me?! What were we watching, the Rocky vs. Drago battle in Moscow?
The Lions defense held for the next 1:35 as Felix Jones, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman all forgot Dallas faced 4th-and-20 when Jones stepped foolishly out of bounds. Stafford took a knee for the final four ticks to secure the first eight-game winning streak for the Detroit Lions since the 1953-54 season and first five-game road-winning streak in franchise history.
The Lions and Packers are now the only two undefeated teams left this season and the Lions continue to dominate beyond the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 54-10.
Sunday’s victory was record breaking on many fronts, but more importantly gave Stafford, Houston and Carpenter an American Pie ending against “America’s Team.”