Lions vs. Cowboys final score: Detroit rallies for thrilling 31-30 victory

Gregory Shamus

The Detroit Lions, led by Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, rallied for an insane 31-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Sunday's game will go down as one of the wildest Detroit Lions victories in their history. Despite turning the ball over 4 times and trailing by 6 points with only a minute to go, the Lions emerged victorious over the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 31-30. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who had a franchise-record 329 yards receiving, led the Lions down the field, and Stafford scored in the final seconds to give Detroit the thrilling win.

Early on, it was far from thrilling for the Lions. When it comes to the start of games, do I even need to say it at this point? Okay, fine, I will. The Lions got the ball first, as always. The Lions then proceeded to fail to score any points on their opening drive, as always. They went three-and-out, thanks in part to a false start penalty killing the drive before it could even get going.

The Cowboys didn't do much on their opening drive, either. A weak defensive holding penalty on Bill Bentley gave them a free first down, but that's about all they could manage, leading to their first punt of the day.

It was more of the same on the next two possessions. The Lions did get one first down, but they had to punt after the drive stalled following another false start. Dallas, on the other hand, drove into Detroit territory after getting the ball back, but the Lions defense came up with a stop to force another punt.

The scoring finally got started after the Lions took over at their own 10-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Stafford hit Johnson on a slant, and Megatron turned the routine catch into an 87-yard gain. If he was 100 percent healthy, he probably would have scored a touchdown instead of getting caught at the 3-yard line, but Johnson did end up with a touchdown when all was said and done. After three ugly plays, the Lions decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, and Stafford found Johnson in the end zone for the score.

Following a Cowboys three-and-out, the Lions took over with good field position and immediately got into Dallas territory. The Lions got down to the Dallas 42 in just two plays, but the drive came to a halt there. Stafford threw a pass to Johnson and it bounced off his hands and into the air. Sean Lee grabbed it for his first interception of the game, giving the Cowboys some good field position.

The Lions defense stood tough and forced another three-and-out. Following a punt that pinned Detroit at its own 15, the Lions picked up gains of 8 and 17 yards to get to their own 40. The drive stalled there, though, and Sam Martin boomed another punt, this time for 59 yards and a touchback.

The Cowboys got on the scoreboard on their next drive. Back-to-back gains of 13 yards got things moving, and a neutral-zone infraction on third-and-7 helped put the Cowboys in field goal range. This was important, because Tony Romo threw a pass downfield for an incompletion after being pressured yet again on a third down. Dan Bailey's kick from 53 yards out would have been good from 58, but who knows if the Cowboys would have actually tried the field goal.

In any case, the Lions looked poised to improve their 7-3 lead before halftime. They drove all the way down to the Dallas 27 and had third-and-5 thanks to a 17-yard catch by Brandon Pettigrew on second-and-22. Unfortunately, the Lions didn't even get a field goal out of the drive because Stafford made a bad read and was picked off again by Lee, who returned the interception 74 yards. This set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant on third down, giving the Cowboys their first lead of the game.

A 29-yard pass to Johnson to open the next drive gave the Lions a shot at adding some points before halftime. Two incomplete passes and intentional grounding ensured the Cowboys would lead going into the second half, though, and Dallas nearly blocked the ensuing punt. Martin luckily got it off, and the Cowboys simply took a knee to run out the second quarter.

The theme of the third quarter was turnovers. After a Cowboys punt to open the second half, the Lions quickly moved into Dallas territory. They were on the move and looked poised to score before Reggie Bush gave the ball away to the Cowboys. He didn't even try to protect it (see below) and gave the Cowboys an easy takeaway as a result.

The Lions defense came up with a big stop following the turnover, which simply allowed the cycle to repeat itself. The Lions again quickly got into Dallas territory, this time thanks to a 22-yard screen to Joique Bell and a 21-yard pass to Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson fumbled the ball away at the end of that 21-yard pass, and the Cowboys returned it to the 50-yard line. With a penalty by Joseph Fauria added on to the end of the return, the Cowboys were able to connect on another 53-yard field goal after going three-and-out.

The Lions offense kept rolling, and they finally managed to make it through a drive without a turnover. Johnson had gains of 18 and 26 yards, and Kris Durham had a big 8-yard gain on third-and-4. The 26-yard pass to Johnson put the Lions at the 2-yard line and in position to score a touchdown to take the lead, but they had to settle for a field goal instead.

David Akers' field goal cut the lead down to 13-10, but it didn't stay that way for long. Only three plays into the next drive, Romo found Terrance Williams for a 60-yard touchdown. The Lions defense finally broke and gave up a big play, and now the Cowboys suddenly had a 20-10 lead.

Needing a response that included a touchdown, the Lions got exactly that with a 7-play drive that spanned 80 yards and 3:54. The Lions moved down the field with a big assist from a 21-yard pass interference penalty, and a 16-yard run by Bell helped. A 9-yard pass put the Lions on the 1-yard line, and Bell punched it in on the very next play for a touchdown.

Yet again, the Lions got within a field goal only to immediately give up another long touchdown. This time around, Romo found Bryant, who avoided an awful tackle attempt by Louis Delmas and went 50 yards for the score. This came after a 56-yard kick return by the Cowboys. Basically, the defense and special teams for the Lions fell apart just as the offense finally figured things out.

With the shootout officially on, Johnson went beast mode as the Lions started their next drive. On the opening play, he skied over two defenders for a 54-yard reception. This put the Lions deep in Dallas territory, and they got down to the 1-yard line thanks to a scramble by Stafford on third-and-4. On the very next play, Bush scored from a yard out despite nearly fumbling by stretching out the ball. The play was reviewed, but the call stood, making this a 27-24 game.

Needing a stop, the Lions defense came up big. They shook off a pass interference penalty on the drive's first play to stuff the Cowboys on the ground twice. Then, on third down, pressure forced Romo to throw the ball away. The Lions got the ball back at their own 33-yard line with 2:24 to go in need of only a field goal to tie things up, but the offense went four-and-out. The Lions didn't go Johnson's way once and promptly gave the ball back to the Cowboys with 1:24 to go.

The ensuing sequence of events turned out to be one of the wildest things I've ever seen. The Cowboys ran the ball twice, forcing the Lions to use up their final two timeouts. Then, on third down, they ran the ball again, but there was a flag for holding. This turned out to be quite big. The Lions declined since they got a stop, but the penalty halted the clock anyway. As a result, after another long Bailey field goal, the Lions got the ball back down 30-24 with 1:02 to go. That turned out to be more than enough time for a late comeback, despite the fact that the announcers had already declared the Cowboys victorious.

With 80 yards to go in 1:02, the Lions opened their final drive of the game with a 0-yard pass to Bush. Yes, 0 yards. All it did was waste time, but the Lions got it rolling after that. Stafford hit Johnson for 17 yards, spiked the ball and then hit Durham in stride on a perfect 40-yard pass. After Durham headed out of bounds, the Lions got to the line and Stafford found Johnson again, this time for 22 yards. The Lions now had the ball at the 1-yard line and quickly got lined up. Stafford signaled that he was going to spike the ball, but he decided to reach the ball over the goal line instead. The result? A touchdown that nobody but Stafford saw coming. Stafford said after the game that he decided to go for the score on his own, and nobody knew it was coming but him.

Akers nailed the extra point, giving the Lions a 31-30 lead. After a squib kick, the Cowboys had one last chance for a miracle touchdown. They tried to get it downfield with a hook and lateral type of play, but it didn't get them anywhere. The clock ran out on the Cowboys, and the Lions hit the field to celebrate one of the craziest victories I've ever seen.

It goes without saying, but the Lions desperately needed to win this game. Going into their bye week, they can now get healthy, relax and focus on turning their 5-3 record into another run to the playoffs. And at the very least, they can look back at Sunday's game as another memorable comeback win against the Cowboys.

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