It’s hard to tell what was the most impressive feat for the Detroit Lions as they picked up their fifth win of the season – Matthew Stafford fooling everyone and then lunging forward to score the game-winning touchdown, or Calvin Johnson catching 14 passes for 329 yards, nearly setting a new NFL record for receiving yards.
The bottom line – victory, and improving to 5-3, is usually more impressive. Stafford made everyone think he was going to spike the ball, including his own teammates. But with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Cowboys trying to make a final goalline stand and somehow avoid letting a 10-point fourth quarter lead disappear, Stafford lunged forward, scored the touchdown and won the game 31-30 for the Lions.
Not all the 64,379 fans who were inside the stadium when the game began were still in when the Lions celebrated their victory. The fourth quarter offered an explosion of points as the teams combined for 41 points in less than 15 minutes. The Cowboys went up by 10 points twice, including once more with less than 7 minutes left, which sent the less patient and faithful fans packing home.
However, the Stafford – Johnson connection was at its best during the end of the game, resulting in an incredible comeback which included two rushing touchdowns by Reggie Bush and eventually, clinching the game, by Matthew Stafford.
Stafford didn’t let his two interceptions (both by Sean Lee) get to him. He was 5-of-6 on throws for 15 yards or longer in the fourth quarter, completing all three such passes on the final drive. It helps when you have Johnson on the team, who was 8 yards shy from breaking the record by Flipper Anderson (336 yards) from 1989. It was Johnson’s fifth 200-yard game in his career, tied for the NFL record.
The Dallas Cowboys once again find it difficult to understand how they let this one get away from them. They’re now 4-4 in a division that’s theirs for the taking but they keep messing up opportunities to make it easier for the rest of the way. Tony Romo didn’t throw any interceptions; he did throw three touchdown passes, but he also completed less than 50% of his passes. Even without getting sacked, he was under duress for 38% of his dropbacks, more than he’s felt against anyone all season. It was his 21st consecutive game with a touchdown pass this season, but his defense and the awful excuse of a running game (62 yards on 26 carries) failed him in a hard to judge performance.
On the other side of the fence, the Lions had no problem getting yards on the box score when they weren’t turning the ball over (four times), which puts even a greater emphasis on just how unlikely their win was, considering the Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over once. They just couldn’t stop the Lions on their own merit, and couldn’t make the most of the opportunities given to them. In the end, all that was left was Calvin Johnson’s incredible achievement and the awe it created.
I’ve literally never seen anything like that before in my life. He’s the greatest receiver in the history of the National Football League.