LIONS INSIDER

FOUR DOWNS: Stafford's sneak; Megatron's status; crucial holding call and Houston bounces back

Posted Oct 27, 2013

Tim Twentyman on four keys to the Lions come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys

FIRST DOWN

SNEAK KNOWN BY ONE

It might be the most important two feet Matthew Stafford has ever ran on a football field.

His quarterback sneak with 12 seconds left on the clock spearheaded an improbable 31-30 Lions come-from-behind victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

Only one person – Stafford -- knew the play was on.

He didn’t tell anyone he was going to sneak it in. In fact, he was screaming at his teammates to spike the ball after Calvin Johnson was tackled just inside the 1-yard line on the previous play.

It was just one of those instinctive plays by a quarterback.

"We don’t get it in and we probably lose the game," Stafford said of the play.

"It’s just a feel play, man. I went for it. I was just trying to make a play."

The Lions got to that point after Stafford led them 79 yards in 50 seconds by completing passes of 17, 40 and 22 yards before finishing the drive off himself.

He finished the game with 488 passing yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing and two interceptions.

"We battled hard," Stafford said. "We didn’t play our best football, but we did what we needed. Sometimes, that’s good enough to get you a win."

Sunday was Stafford’s 22nd career victory and 10 have come on fourth-quarter comebacks.

None bigger than Sunday, as the Lions head to the bye week 5-3 and on track to the ultimate goal of a post-season berth.

SECOND DOWN

ELITE STATUS

Detroit fans should realize how lucky they are.

They’ve been spoiled a bit being able to watch Barry Sanders, Nicklas Lidstrom and Miguel Cabrera over the years. Add Calvin Johnson to the list.

Megatron had a game for the ages vs. Dallas. His 14 receptions tied a franchise record and his 329 yards were the second-most in NFL history in a single game to Flipper Anderson’s 336 in 1989.

"It’s crazy. Shoot," Johnson said after the performance. "I mean, we got one-on-one coverage and was able to hit on a lot. I don’t know what our percentages were, but we were able to hit on a lot of deep passes, intermediate. We were all over the place."

Johnson caught passes of 87, 54, 29, 26, 22 and 21 yards, as the Cowboys had no answer for him. He turned short passes into long gains and went over defenders to covert on long passes.

There was really nothing the Cowboys could do to stop him.

It's the same feeling defenders had trying to tackle Sanders. Or the same way forwards were left wondering what happened to the puck vs. Lidstrom. Or the same way Cabrera makes major league pitching look pedestrian.

"Just wait until he’s 100-percent," head coach Jim Schwartz said of Johnson.

THIRD DOWN

CRUCIAL BLUNDER

All the late game heroics by Stafford and Co. wouldn’t have been possible without a huge blunder by the Cowboys on their last offensive series.

Facing a 3rd down and 14 with 1:14 left in the game, tackle Tyron Smith was called for a holding penalty on a 9-yard run by Phillip Tanner. The penalty stopped the clock at 1:07 and prevented 40 seconds from ticking away. Instead of 62 seconds to go 80 yards, Stafford would have been left with just 22. That’s a big difference.

"That’s a big play in the game," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.

"We had to kick the field goal but you would like to, in that situation, let the rest of the time go down because (the Lions) used their timeouts already. We called that third-down run and we get the clock down to about 30 (seconds) or even below that, but that increases your chances of winning when you take that time off the clock."

FOURTH DOWN

BOUNCE-BACK PERFORMANCE

Chris HoustonCB Chris Houston (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Sunday couldn’t have come soon enough for Chris Houston.

The veteran cornerback had one of the worst performances of his career last week vs. Cincinnati when he gave up two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder by A.J. Green.

Houston didn’t speak to the media this week, instead, wanting his play to do the talking. It talked loud and clear on Sunday.

"Houston played an outstanding game today," Schwartz said. "We doubled Dez Bryant just about the whole game … and that meant we were singled up away from him a lot and most of those fell to Chris Houston.

"Chris bounced back with a big-time performance. That’s what we expected. At some point you have to show faith in your players."

It the same faith Schwartz showed in tight end Brandon Pettigrew early in the season after some struggles and he’s been very good the last month and a half.

"They need to be able to respond and that’s what Chris did this week," Schwartz said. "I’m proud of him."