The Detroit Lions seem to be most comfortable when they're trailing late in games. I say that because on Sunday, for the third game in a row, the Lions rallied late in the fourth quarter to win. This time, they came back from a three-point deficit in the final minute to beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of 20-16. Matthew Stafford led the Lions down the field and found Theo Riddick for the game-winning touchdown, giving Detroit yet another comeback victory.
The first half of this game was quite wild, to say the least. The Lions opened the game with a 15-play drive that covered 72 yards and ran 8:41 off the clock. It only produced a 26-yard field goal, but it was kept alive by a perfectly called and perfectly executed fake punt at the Detroit 45. The Lions needed 6 yards for a first down, and Sam Martin hit a wide open Jed Collins in the middle of the field for 24 yards, keeping the drive going and leading to the eventual field goal. Take a look:
Here's that wonderful fake punt from the Lions. Perfectly executed. https://t.co/mpQ61TfCbe— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) November 9, 2014
The Dolphins responded by promptly losing 7 yards on three plays and going three-and-out. Ndamukong Suh was absolutely beastly on this drive, and his play helped the Lions get great field position. The offense quickly capitalized, as Stafford unleashed a 49-yard bomb to Calvin Johnson. Johnson had excellent position on Brent Grimes and simply boxed him out to make the catch and give the Lions a 10-0 lead.
Megatron is back I think. https://t.co/ZZwZrTiw2y— Josh Katzowitz (@joshkatzowitz) November 9, 2014
With the Dolphins quickly going three-and-out and losing yardage again, the Lions were in position to really open this game up, but they were unable to get anything going thanks in part to an offensive pass interference penalty on Johnson. This led to an opportunity for the Dolphins to cut into Detroit's lead, and they actually tried to fake a punt of their own on fourth-and-1 from midfield. The fake worked, but an illegal shift penalty negated it and forced the Dolphins to actually kick it away.
The Lions went from their own 11 to the Miami 41 quite quickly after getting the ball back thanks mainly to Joique Bell. He picked up 28 yards on a pass and trucked Cortland Finnegan in the process, and he ran for 16 and 5 yards on the next two plays. Unfortunately, the drive stalled after this, but the Lions amazingly attempted another fake punt. This time they needed 5 yards at the Miami 41, and Martin completed a pass out wide to Isa Abdul-Quddus, but he came up 2 yards short of the sticks.
The Dolphins looked like they were going to capitalize on Detroit's failed fake punt, as they moved all the way down to the Lions 19-yard line. Luckily for Detroit, Miami didn't even come away with any points, as James Ihedigbo picked off Ryan Tannehill on third-and-7. It looked like Ihedigbo was going to take the interception to the house, but Tannehill chased him down after 70 yards. This was important, as Stafford was picked off on the very next play thanks to a ridiculous catch in the end zone by Grimes.
INT of the year. I ain't even mad. pic.twitter.com/pJAsKdr3kt— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) November 9, 2014
This time, the Dolphins did capitalize on the Lions' mistake with points, but they only managed to get a field goal out of a 14-play, 75-yard drive. The kick from 23 yards out nearly didn't happen with DeAndre Levy making a diving attempt at an interception on third-and-4, but the ball came loose just as he went to the ground. As a result, the Dolphins got some points and went into halftime down 10-3.
This game continued to be wild as the second half began. The Dolphins nearly took the opening kickoff to the house, but Kyle Van Noy made a touchdown-saving tackle. Then, two plays later, Ziggy Ansah forced a fumble. The Lions recovered, but they were once again unable to do anything on offense despite the great field position.
Amazingly, the Dolphins actually took over with great field position of their own. The Lions punted from near midfield, but a bad kick combined with a late hit gave the Dolphins the ball at their own 43. This eventually led to a 50-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis, cutting the Lions' lead down to 10-6.
Things went from bad to worse for the Lions on their next drive. They actually made a great play by going for it on fourth-and-6 from the Miami 40 -- Johnson had a ridiculous bobbled catch to move the chains -- but the drive stalled after this. With the Lions now in position for a field goal, they had their sights set on extending their lead back to a touchdown, but the kick was blocked and returned all the way to the Detroit 3-yard line. Kellen Davis made a touchdown-saving tackle, but the Dolphins scored on a pass to Mike Wallace on the very next play. Suddenly the Dolphins had a 13-10 lead with the third quarter winding down.
In need of a response, the Lions offense delivered. Passes of 28 yards to Golden Tate and 17 yards to Johnson put the Lions in field goal range despite the next three plays combining for a loss of 16 yards. And the Lions did actually make the field goal this time despite it coming from 50 yards out. Prater hit it right down the middle of the uprights, tying the game up at 13.
The Dolphins answered with a magnificent 13-play drive that covered 70 yards and took 7:43 off the clock. The Lions defense just couldn't manage to get off the field, although they did come up big with a stop on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Ihedigbo broke up Tannehill's pass in the end zone, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
With 4:19 left, the Lions had plenty of time to make another comeback, but they actually went three-and-out with three straight incompletions. The Dolphins got the ball back with a chance to put this game away, but the Detroit defense stood tough and forced a three-and-out of its own. This led to the Lions getting the ball back at their own 26-yard line with 3:13 left in the game.
With the game now on the line, Stafford stepped it up and led the Lions to victory. He put together an outstanding drive that got moving with a 17-yard pass to Tate and an 18-yard pass to Johnson. This got the Lions into Dolphins territory, and Tate just barely moved the chains five plays later on third-and-10. This set the Lions up with a first down at the 17. Fast forward two plays and it was third-and-4 for the Lions, and Stafford scrambled to buy some time. It looked like he might have been able to run for the first down, but he went to the end zone instead and found Riddick for an 11-yard touchdown. The play was reviewed, and the call was upheld, giving the Lions a 20-16 lead with only 29 seconds left.
Matthew Stafford, savior of Detroit! http://t.co/2ue8I107lJ— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) November 9, 2014
Thanks in part to their questionable timeout usage on the Lions' previous drive, the Dolphins weren't able to stop the clock on their final possession of the game. They managed to nearly get to midfield, but their desperation final play didn't go anywhere. This meant that the Lions won the game, improving their record to 7-2 on the season.
Amazingly, first place in the NFC will be on the line next week when the Lions take on the Arizona Cardinals on the road. I don't think anybody saw this coming before the season, but the Lions are now in position to take control of the top seed in the NFC in Week 11.
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