Going into halftime down 21-0, the Detroit Lions' trip to London looked like it was going to be a pretty forgettable one. They got dominated in all three phases in the first half, and they just didn't seem to have a chance of beating the Atlanta Falcons.
In the second half, however, the Lions slowly but surely cut away at Atlanta's lead, and thanks to some horrific mistakes by the Falcons down the stretch, Detroit was presented with a chance to win the game on a last-second field goal. It took a delay of game penalty to prevent a miss for the Lions to win, but Matt Prater did in fact connect from 48 yards out to give Detroit a shocking 22-21 victory.
Sunday's game got off to an awful start for the Lions, to say the very least. On the game's opening drive, Matt Ryan led the Falcons down the field for an easy 10-play touchdown drive. The Falcons only faced a single third down, and they scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman.
Things continued to go poorly for the Lions after they punted the ball away. A holding penalty killed their drive after one first down, and Atlanta took over with excellent field position. The Falcons quickly capitalized, going 56 yards in only six plays for another touchdown. This time Ryan found Bear Pascoe on a play-action pass from a yard out, making this a 14-0 game.
The Lions finally got something going as the first quarter came to a close and the second quarter began. In fact, they drove all the way down to the Atlanta 37 before the drive stalled. Despite only needing 6 yards for a first down, the Lions questionably decided to punt the ball away. Although the defense did its part by forcing a three-and-out, the offense couldn't get anything going and had a three-and-out of its own.
Following this sequence, the Falcons added to their lead with another extended drive. This one covered 89 yards, and it was capped off by a 1-yard Steven Jackson touchdown run. The TD came after a pass interference penalty in the end zone on Rashean Mathis, who picked off Ryan and returned the interception 102 yards for a touchdown. It was an excellent return, but the pass interference call, along with a flag on Atlanta, nullified the play.
Now trailing 21-0, the Lions needed to get something going before halftime, and they did manage to get down to the Atlanta 35. However, on third-and-10, Matthew Stafford tried to find Corey Fuller and was picked off. Fuller slipped on the play, and the interception served as a perfect summation of an awful first half for Stafford and the Lions.
Things got off to a much better start for the Lions in the second half. They put together an impressive 15-play drive that covered 76 yards and ran 7:06 off the clock. Well, I should say it was impressive until they got inside the 5-yard line. At that point, the Lions couldn't do anything, and they had to settle for a 22-yard Prater field goal.
The defense responded by forcing a quick three-and-out, giving the Lions the ball at the Atlanta 44. Amazingly, the Lions actually managed to back themselves up to their own 31-yard line after two consecutive penalties on Garrett Reynolds, and they eventually faced third-and-25. On that play, Stafford stepped up into the pocket to avoid pressure and unleashed a rocket downfield to a wide open Golden Tate. Tate caught the pass in stride and ran into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown, and suddenly the Lions only trailed 21-10.
The Lions cut into the lead even more following a stunningly bad interception by Ryan. He threw the ball across his body while under pressure, and the only player anywhere near the pass was Cassius Vaughn, who returned the interception to the Atlanta 7-yard line. Unfortunately, the Lions failed to get into the end zone despite having second-and-goal from the 2-yard line at one point, but they made it a one-possession game with another Prater field goal.
The Lions defense came up big with a quick stop, getting the offense the ball back with a chance to tie the game. The offense nearly delivered, as the Lions methodically marched down the field with a lengthy drive that was capped off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick. Unfortunately, the Lions were unable to convert the ensuing two-point conversion. Tate was clearly held, leading to an incomplete pass, but there were no flags, meaning the Lions remained down 21-19.
In need of a quick stop to get the ball back with a chance to win, the Lions defense looked as though it wasn't going to get the job done. The Falcons moved the chains twice through the air, giving them the ball at the Detroit 40 at the two-minute warning. The Lions only had one timeout remaining, so it looked like the game was as good as over. That was far from the case, though. Thanks to a holding penalty and a dropped pass on second and third down, the Falcons had to punt the ball away with 1:46 left on the clock. Had they simply taken a knee three times, the Lions would've had very little time to do anything, but instead Detroit got the ball back with 1:38 to go.
Needing a field goal to win, Stafford got things rolling with a 32-yard pass to Tate. He then found Riddick, who made a ridiculous one-handed catch for 20 more yards. A 10-yard pass to Jeremy Ross got the Lions in field goal range, at which point they tried to simply position the ball and run down the clock. During this sequence, the Falcons actually gave the Lions 5 free yards with a defensive holding penalty.
Atlanta's penalty eventually led to a 43-yard field goal attempt to win the game, and Prater pushed it wide right. The Lions' comeback appeared to come up short, but there was a flag for a delay of game. Yes, the Lions failed to get the snap off in time, meaning the missed field goal never actually happened. Instead, the Lions were moved back 5 yards, giving Prater another chance, this time from 48 yards out. On his second try, as time expired, Prater nailed the kick, giving the Lions an amazing 22-21 comeback victory.
I'm still not quite sure how the Lions managed to win this game, but they are now 6-2 going into their bye week. Rather than dealing with a long flight home after a soul-crushing loss, the Lions get to return to Detroit for their bye week in celebration mode after a wild win in London.
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