PITTSBURGH -- Coaches are praised when their plays work and second-guessed when they don’t.
There will be a lot of second-guessing around the water coolers in Detroit on Monday after a failed fake field goal attempt by the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter helped opened the door for a Steelers, 37-27, come-from-behind victory on Sunday.
The Lions had a 27-23 lead with 12:56 remaining the fourth quarter and faced a 4th-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. Instead of taking the points and the seven-point lead, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz went for the fake and the jugular.
The Steelers took over on their own 3-yard line and proceeded to go 97 yards in 16 plays, scoring on a 1-yard pass from Ben Roethlisber to Will Johnson. The drive took off more than eight minutes (8:03) off the clock.
The Lions got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 4:40 remaining, now trailing, and a third-down interception by safety Will Allen gave the ball right back to Steelers offense. They increased their lead to 37-27 a few plays later on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to receiver Jerricho Cotchery to seal the win.
Pittsburgh surged to a 14-0 lead in the first 11 minutes, but the Stafford to Johnson connection got rolling in a big way in the second quarter and helped the Lions score 27 second-quarter points.
Stafford threw for a franchise-record 327 yards in the first half and Johnson was on the receiving end of 179 of those.
The Steelers, however, adjusted in the second half as Johnson didn’t have a catch in the final two quarters and Stafford threw for just 35 yards.
Talk about a tale of two halves.
Stafford hit Johnson on a 79-yard touchdown after the Steelers had taken a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter. The play moved Stafford ahead of Hall of Famer Bobby Layne (15,710) as the team’s all-time-leading passer.
The pair connected again later in the quarter on a 19-yard strike that trimmed the Steelers lead to 20-17. That play gave Johnson over 1,000-yards on the season, the fifth time he’s done that in his career.
Johnson’s 179-first-half yards are the most in any half of his career and the sixth time he’s gone for more than 150 yards in a half. Consider this, Johnson has more 150-yard halves (6) that former All Pro receiver Herman Moore had 150-yard games (5).
The Lions offense generated 379 yards of total offense in the first half, but only 72 in the second half.
Stafford finished the game 19-of-46 passing (41.3 percent) for 362 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes in the game, two to receiver Antonio Brown, and finished with 367 yards.
The Lions now fall to 6-4 with a home game against Tampa Bay next up.