A week after coming back from 20 points down to get a victory in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions took their 3 – 0 record down to Dallas to play the Cowboys on Sunday. It was a homecoming for Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who attended Highland Park High School in Dallas. It looked like Stafford was a little too excited on his return and had trouble moving the offense in the 1st half…although Dallas’ vaunted rush defense could have had something to do with that as well. While the Lions’ offense struggled to move, Dallas’ offense moved the ball with relative ease. The Cowboys used short, quick passes to prevent Detroit’s well-publicized defense line from getting to QB Tony Romo and his injured ribs. Romo found WR Dez Bryant in the end zone twice and rookie K Dan Bailey added a field goal to give the Cowboys a 17 – 0 lead before the Lions finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal of their own from K Jason Hanson. The Cowboys hit another field goal just before halftime to take a 20 – 3 lead into the locker room. Coming out of halftime, Dallas march down the field on their opening drive aided by a personal foul- shot to the quarterback's head on DT Ndamukong Suh, and Romo found TE Jason Witten for another touchdown to increase their lead to 27 – 3. The Lions struggled again to move the ball, and the Lions looked a little like a defeated team. Then the Lions much-improved defense came to the rescue. LB Bobby Carpenter, the ex-Cowboy, picked off a pass from Romo to Witten and took it back for the Lions first touchdown of the day. On the very next series, CB Chris Houston jumped a pass from Romo to WR Laurent Robinson and took it back for another defensive score to give the Lions a fighting chance. After a field goal by Dallas to make the score 17 – 30, the Lions’ offense came alive and took over. Stafford found WR Calvin Johnson for a pair of touchdowns, including one with 1:19 left in the game, and Hanson added another field goal to give the Lions their first lead- 34 – 30. With just over a minute left to orchestrate a drive but no timeouts however, Romo went to work using more quick passes to move Dallas down the field. As the Cowboys got to midfield however, Detroit’s defense dialed up the pressure. After two incompletions, DE Willie Young got to Romo for the Detroit first and only sack of the game and creating a 4th and 20. Detroit’s defense got after Romo again on the next play forcing him to dump the ball off to RB Felix Jones. Jones, apparently not realizing that it was fourth down, stepped out of bounds after gaining only ten yards giving the ball and the victory to the Lions.
Losing a game after being up by 24 points in the 3rd quarter was the worst in Dallas history- the previous worst was blowing a 21-point lead to Washington in 1965. And while Romo’s overall game numbers look respectable (34-for-47 for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions), his three interceptions (all in the 2nd half) were instrumental in allowing the Lions to get back into and win the game and further invites criticism over his leadership ability. Stafford (21-for-43 for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception), on the other hand, struggled mightily in the 1st half (9-for-23 with an interception) and was nearly unstoppable in the 2nd half. WR Calvin Johnson made Dallas defensive coordinator eat his words (that Johnson would only be the third-best receiver in the Dallas lineup) with his performance (8 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns). And with his two touchdown catches, Johnson ties WR Chris Carter's record of four consecutive games with at least two touchdown catches.
All things considered, this is the second time in as many weeks that the Lions have struggled at the start of the game and trailed by double-digits before coming back to earn the victory. Maybe that shows how dominant the Lions offense and defense can be when clicking on all cylinders, but it also shows how vulnerable the Lions can still be. Should they come out flat against teams like the Packers or the Saints, I’m not sure that they have the firepower to mount enough of a comeback. The Lions really need to work on coming out strong every week. They’ll look to do that next week when they play the Chicago Bears on Monday night in Detroit, a team that works hard to shut down their opponent’s running game and making them one-dimensional.