How 'bout them Lions?
For the second week in a row, the Detroit Lions came back from a deficit of 20 or more points on the road to win a game. Last week, the Lions bounced back from a 20-0 hole at halftime to down the . This week, the Lions rallied from a 27-3 hole in Dallas to beat the in overtimeCowboys, 34-30. The win gave the Lions their eighth straight win dating back to last season and their first 4-0 start in 31 years.
Just like last week, the first half was downright awful for the Lions. It was ugly from the very start, as Matthew Stafford was picked off on the fourth play of the game. He seemed too charged up, and perhaps the nerves of returning to his hometown were responsible for the off-target throw that was intercepted.
Things got even uglier when the Lions went on defense. Tony Romo carved up the Lions defense and capped off a six-play drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. Chris Houston didn't stand a chance in covering Bryant, and the Lions quickly fell behind 7-0 as a result.
Following a three-and-out by the Lions, the Cowboys once again went right down the field. The good news is the Cowboys couldn't punch the ball into the end zone because the Lions defense stepped up and made a stop. On fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Ashlee Palmer stuffed Felix Jones for no gain. The Cowboys' gamble to go for it didn't pay off, and the Lions appeared to have a big swing of momentum go their way.
The Lions managed to get to the 18-yard line before their next drive stalled, so at the very least the Cowboys didn't have good field position when they got the ball back. Unfortunately, it didn't mean much after the Cowboys offense hit the field, because once again Romo carved up the secondary, or more specifically, Houston. He found Laurent Robinson on the third play of the drive for a gain of 44 yards, and on the very next play Bryant caught a six-yard pass for a touchdown.
Another three-and-out by the Lions put this game in serious danger of becoming a blowout, especially with Dallas starting the next drive in Lions territory. It looked like the Cowboys were well on their way to another TD, but a stop on third down forced them to settle for a 41-yard field goal. The Cowboys did make it a 17-0 game with the kick, but that was much better than 21-0.
The Lions answered with their first positive drive of the game. Stafford led the Lions down the field by working out of the shotgun and using some no huddle. This resulted in the Lions moving all the way down to the Dallas 15 before the drive stalled. Jason Hanson kicked a 33-yard field goal to get the Lions on the board.
The two teams traded punts before the Cowboys got the ball back with 1:28 to go in the half. The Lions were hoping to keep Dallas off the board and keep the deficit at two touchdowns going into the half, but the Cowboys quickly moved down the field and were able to add a 35-yard field goal. At halftime, the score was Cowboys 20, Lions 3.
To start the second half, the obvious hope was for a repeat of last week by having the defense come out strong to set the tone. The exact opposite of that happened, though. Hanson's kick to start the half went only 49 yards because he slipped, and the return went back 38 yards to the Lions 46-yard line. This set the Cowboys up for a six-play, 46-yard touchdown drive that took only 2:37. Romo found a wide-open Jason Witten in the end zone from a yard out to cap off the drive, and now the Lions trailed 27-3.
After the Lions were forced to punt on their next drive, all hope seemed to be lost. The Lions couldn't slow down Romo and the Cowboys offense, and Stafford and the Lions offense couldn't get anything going. Many were resigned to the Lions' winning streak coming to an end, and it seemed like Detroit was getting a reality check with this game.
Everything changed on the first play of Dallas' next drive, however. Former Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who was booed relentlessly by the crowd and was in the starting lineup only because Justin Durant was out with a concussion, made the play that turned around the game for the Lions. Romo floated a pass in the direction of Bryant and Carpenter undercut the route. He leaped up and picked off the pass, and then he navigated his way down the field for a 35-yard touchdown return. The ball appeared to be fumbled just as he was crossing the goal line, but the referees ruled that Carpenter scored, and even if they hadn't, Eric Wright was right there to pick up the ball.
Although the Carpenter touchdown did cut the lead down to 17 points, at the time it looked like something that was simply going to make the end result a bit more respectable. While the Lions did show a week ago that they can come back from a huge hole, the Cowboys got the ball back and moved into Detroit territory in only five plays. The defense was having its issues, and the offense still hadn't shown anything promising. For me, hope was running on empty.
I got a sudden refueling of hope on the seventh play of the Cowboys' next drive. Just as Romo seemed to be bouncing back from his pick-six, he went and did it again. He threw a bad pass on a slant and it went right to the Lions' Houston. He caught the ball and headed toward the sideline. Thanks to an outstanding block by Kyle Vanden Bosch, Houston had nothing but green in front of him and returned the pick 56 yards for a touchdown. In a matter of minutes the Lions went from trailing 27-3 to being down by only 10 points despite the offense not even being on the field.
On the next drive, the comeback attempt took a tumble because Ndamukong Suh received a roughing the passer penalty on an incomplete pass on third down. It looked like the Lions were set to get the ball back, but because Suh contacted Romo's helmet, the Cowboys picked up an automatic first down. Immediately it looked like this was going to bite the Lions in the butt because Romo connected with Robinson on a 37-yard pass on the very next play. A touchdown would have seriously thwarted all momentum the Lions built up, but the defense responded by stopping Dallas and holding them to a 23-yard field goal.
Trailing by 13 points, the offense returned to the field for the first time in 10 minutes of game action. In real time, the Lions offense had been on the bench even longer thanks to the back-to-back pick-sixes. If the Lions were actually going to come back, the offense had to get it going, and Stafford didn't disappoint. In only five plays, the Lions went 80 yards and scored on a 23-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, who jumped up and grabbed the ball over three Cowboys defenders. The amazing catch put the Lions within six points with 13:37 to go in the game.
The Cowboys quickly went three-and-out, giving the Lions a chance to take the lead, but Detroit was unable to move the ball past the 50. The good news is they pinned Dallas inside their own five, and another three-and-out gave the Lions the ball in Cowboys territory. It looked like the Lions were going to score the go-ahead touchdown on this drive, but penalties derailed it. A six-yard run by Keiland Williams was washed out because of a holding penalty by Stephen Peterman and a 13-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew was negated because Nate Burleson was called for a block in the back. Luckily the Lions were able to stay in field goal range and pick up three points on a 51-yard kick by Hanson, but this drive was a definite disappointment because of the penalties.
Needing another stop to have a chance to tie the game or take the lead, the defense didn't disappoint. In fact, they got the ball back for the offense after only one play. Romo was pressured by Suh, who was being held (the referees threw a flag for once), and he threw a bad pass off of his back foot. Stephen Tulloch jumped in front of Witten and picked off the pass, giving the Lions the ball at the Cowboys 40-yard line.
The Lions were able to get inside the 10-yard line after only three plays: a nine-yard pass to Johnson, a 15-yard pass to Johnson and a seven-yard run by Best. Best followed that up with a five-yard run to make it first-and-goal at the four-yard line. The Lions were stuffed on back-to-back run plays, forcing the Cowboys to use their final two timeouts. On third down, Stafford threw an incompletion in Pettigrew's direction, but a holding penalty on the Cowboys gave Detroit a fresh set of downs. On the very next play, Stafford threw a fade to Johnson, who went up and made the catch despite landing hard on the ground. Johnson's second touchdown of the game gave the Lions their first lead, as the scoreboard now read 34-30 in their favor.
The Cowboys had 1:39 to go 80 yards, but the Lions defense made sure this comeback wasn't going to be all for nothing. Although the Cowboys did move to the Detroit 45 after a few intermediate completions, the clock kept running. The clock also kept running after Willie Young sacked Romo for a loss of 10 yards. Following an incompletion, it was fourth-and-20 for the Cowboys, and for some reason Jones ran out of bounds after only gaining seven yards on a pass from Romo.
The Lions took over and Stafford was able to take one kneel down to run out the clock. The celebration began immediately on the Lions sideline, as they had not only made an amazing comeback on the road to down the Cowboys, but they also clinched a 4-0 start to the season.
Obviously these slow starts need to be eradicated going forward, and it's not possible for the Lions to keep winning if they fall behind by 20 or more points every week. The good news is despite playing some really ugly football during the first four weeks of the season, the Lions are undefeated. I don't know if anybody out there expected them to win their first four games, especially since three of them were on the road. The Lions now get to return home for three straight games at Ford Field, and they should get first-round pick Nick Fairley back at some point during this homestand.
The homestand begins with the Monday night showdown against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 10. This is the game everybody has been waiting for since the schedule was announced, and I expect it to be the craziest atmosphere at a Lions home game since they played in the Silverdome. Between the national telecast in primetime and this being the Lions' first game as a 4-0 team, the fans will have a lot to cheer about. Hopefully that is also true during the game when the Lions will look to beat the Bears and start 5-0 for the first time since 1956.