FOX 17 Sports
9:00 PM PDT, October 1, 2011
DALLAS (Sports Network)
For a second straight week, the Detroit Lions made an epic rally, this time finishing a happy homecoming for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
It also resulted in the largest collapse in the history of the Cowboys.
Stafford threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, rallying Detroit from a 24-point deficit in the third quarter for a 34-30 win over Dallas.
The Lions picked off Tony Romo three times in the second half, two resulting in returns for touchdowns by Bobby Carpenter and Chris Houston. The last pick, by Stephen Tulloch, led to the go-ahead score, rallying the Lions from a 27-3 hole.
The Lions (4-0), winners of eight in row going back to last season, tied their largest come-from-behind victory. It came in similar fashion from last week, when Detroit scored all its points after halftime, rallying from a 20-0 deficit for a 26-23 overtime win at Minnesota.
"I think we did a great job in the second half as a team," Stafford said. "Last week the defense was getting stops and we were putting scores on the board. This week the defense was putting scores on the board for us."
Detroit's franchise-record fifth straight road win also put the Lions 4-0 for the first time since 1980.
Stafford, the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft who was a high school star at Highland Park in Dallas, completed 21-of-43 passes for 240 yards with two scores to Johnson. He was also intercepted once.
Romo ended 34-of-47 for 331 yards and three scores, but the Cowboys (2-2) gave up 31 points in the second half.
Romo was ridiculed for what happened in the season-opener against the Jets, when the Cowboys blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost.
"Turnovers, it's the most important stat there is in the game," Romo said. "You protect the ball. It's my No. 1 job. I didn't do a well enough job of that today. For a lot of the game we did, but don't take anything away from them. They made a play when they had to, but I shouldn't have allowed them to have that chance."
Johnson came up with a leaping 23-yard TD pass in the end zone between safety Barry Church and cornerback Mike Jenkins. That capped a five-play, 80-yard drive and got the Lions within 30-24 with 13:37 remaining. Stafford completed all four of his passes during the march for 77 yards.
The Lions killed themselves with penalties on a drive that started midway through the last quarter, but still managed to get a Jason Hanson 51-yard field goal with 4:22 left.
On Dallas' next play from scrimmage, Romo threw the ball to tight end Jason Witten, but Tulloch stepped in front of the pattern and tipped the ball to himself, giving the Lions the ball at the Cowboys' 40.
Stafford completed passes of nine and 15 yards to Johnson before Jahvid Best ran twice for a total of 12 yards to set up a 1st-and-goal. On third down, Stafford threw to the end zone for Brandon Pettigrew. The ball was knocked away by cornerback Frank Walker, but he was whistled for holding. On the next play, Stafford threw to Johnson in the right side of the end zone and he came down with the ball in front of cornerback Terence Newman.
"We got in a hole early and had to start throwing the ball sooner than we wanted to," Stafford said. "That's their strength is playing pass defense, getting after the quarterback, mixing up their coverages. It took us a little while to get settled down, but once we got moving guys had to step up and make plays, and they did."
Romo moved the Cowboys as far as the Detroit 45, but his pass on 4th-and-20 to Felix Jones resulted in only a seven-yard gain with four seconds left as he inexplicably stepped out of bounds.
Laurent Robinson, replacing an injured Miles Austin, had seven catches for 116 yards for the Cowboys. Witten caught eight balls for 94 yards.
Johnson tallied eight receptions for 96 yards.
Romo's one-yard TD pass to a wide open Witten early in the third came one play after Cowboys coach Jason Garrett lost a challenge that Kevin Ogletree scored before being pushed out of bounds. The TD boosted Dallas to a 27-3 cushion with 12:23 left in the quarter.
Two minutes later, Carpenter, a former Cowboy, picked off Romo, cut back to the right and his 35-yard return gave the Lions hope, down 27-10. Carpenter barely got into the end zone before fumbling the ball into the hands of teammate Eric Wright.
"That play gave us the spark," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "It wasn't the game-winner, it didn't turn the tide completely, but it gave us a spark and got things going."
Dallas' next possession also ended in a pick-six. Romo forced a short pass towards Robinson on the right side, but Houston came down with the ball and surged down the sideline for the 56-yard score.
The Cowboys then got a reprieve on their next drive, even after a Dez Bryant 34-yard catch was overturned on a challenge because he was out of bounds. On 3rd-and-3 from the Dallas 39, Romo threw incomplete to Robinson, but Ndamukong Suh was given a 15-yard penalty for delivering a shot to the face of Romo. Then came a 37-yard connection to Witten, setting up Dan Bailey's 23-yard field goal in the final minute of the quarter to set up a wild fourth.
On Detroit's fourth offensive play of the game, Stafford tried to get the ball to Johnson on the left side of the field, but Gerald Sensabaugh stepped in front to make the interception.
There was a question going into the game if Bryant would be active due to a bruised quadriceps, but he paid immediate dividends following the turnover, catching a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Detroit's defense had a big goal-line stand late in the opening quarter. The Cowboys ate up over six minutes off the clock, but faced with a fourth down at the one, Jones was stuffed up the middle, pinned under a pile of tacklers.
Early in the second, Robinson caught a 44-yard bomb down the middle of the field to set up Bryant's six-yard TD catch on the left side of the field. He caught the ball in front of Wright and fell into the end zone with 10:58 left in the quarter.
Just over four minutes later, Bailey kicked a 41-yard field goal for a 17-0 margin before the Lions finally cracked the scoreboard when Hanson split the uprights from 33 yards away.
Ryan Donahue's 56-yard punt sailed into the end zone for the Lions with 1:28 left until halftime, but Romo led the Cowboys into field-goal range thanks to passes of 18 yards to Robinson, 10 to Witten and nine to Tashard Choice, who added a 14-yard run. That set up Bailey's 35-yard field goal on the half's final play.
Copyright © 2014, WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids