With about 1:24 to go in the Dallas Cowboys’ tilt with the Detroit Lions, FOX announcer Brian Billick stated that the Lions would “come away with a 27-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys”. Billick’s partner, Dick Stockton, went even further, giving the Cowboys a 5-3 record, an undefeated conference record, and a three game winning streak.
The Lions ended up taking the game 31-30, thanks to a wild last minute drive that culminated in QB Matthew Stafford’s quarterback sneak from one yard out with 12 seconds to go. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 4-4 on the year, though they retained a one game lead in the NFC East thanks to Philadelphia’s loss to the New York Giants.
Throughout the week, there was great debate over whether Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant was the best receiver in the NFL. While Bryant ended with a sold game (3 receptions, 72 yards, 2 TD’s), to say the man they call Megatron outperformed him in the understatement of the year. Johnson tallied 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown. Those yards were good enough for the 2nd most in a game in NFL history, second only to Los Angeles Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, who picked up 336 yards in a 1989 win over New Orleans. Furthermore, Bryant was seen arguing on the sidelines with coaches and teammates throughout the game, including a shouting match with TE Jason Witten in which Bryant had to be restrained by injured LB DeMarcus Ware.
Dallas lost the game despite forcing 4 Detroit turnovers, joining the legendary 2012 Arizona Cardinals…a team that was quarterbacked by John Skelton and Ryan Lindley…as the only teams in NFL history to lose a game with a turnover differential of +4. QB Tony Romo managed a solid day after a rough start (14-30, 206 yards, 3 TD’s, 0 INT’s), but one could tell he was really missing RB DeMarco Murray, who was a last minute scratch. The Cowboys failed to take advantage of a Detroit defense that was 31st in the league coming in, as the run game was only able to muster 62 yards. Most disappointing was starter Joseph Randle, who couldn’t even average 2 yards an attempt (14 carries, 26 yards) after a solid start last week in Philadelphia.
Dallas’s roller coaster defense had another crazy game. LB Sean Lee led all tacklers with 10, and he had two interception on Stafford, the second of which set up the Cowboys first touchdown, a five yard Romo throw to Bryant who made a highlight reel catch to put the Cowboys up 10-7 just before halftime. Other turnovers came from fumbles by Johnson and RB Reggie Bush.
However, the defense was not only unable to handle Johnson, but Bush as well. The former Heisman winner picked up 122 total yards (92 rushing, 30 receiving) and scored a touchdown that shrunk a Dallas lead to 27-24 with 3:33 left to play. Despite the fact that the game entered the final quarter with a 13-7 Dallas lead (K Dan Bailey nailed two 53 yard field goals and Detroit had a touchdown on a 4th and Goal on the Dallas 2 via Johnson) , the defenses, particularly Dallas’s, collapsed. After David Akers shrank the lead to 13-10 via his 20 yard field goal, the Cowboys struck back on a 20 yard hookup between Romo and WR Terrence Williams, who scored a touchdown for a fourth straight game, a Dallas rookie record.
After Detroit struck back with a one yard run from RB Joique Bell, the Cowboys again went up by 10 after Bryant’s reception from Romo went for a 50 yard score. After the Bush score, Dallas went three and out, but they appeared to have the game in hand after forcing Detroit to do the same. The Lions used their last two timeouts the ensuing Dallas drive, a three and out (all Randle runs) that resulted in another Bailey field goal, a 44 yarder that put Dallas up 30-24 with 1:04 left to play.
However, Stafford went to work with no timeouts left, and masterfully led a touchdown drive that would make John Elway blush. Stafford drove the Lions 80 yards in 6 plays, and took the game winner in himself after Johnson set him up on the Dallas 1. Calling for a spike as time ticked away, he instead leaped over both the offensive and defensive lines and got the ball over the goal line for the score, giving Detroit the win. Stafford finished the game 33-48 for 488 yards and 1 TD.
Now at the halfway mark of the regular season, the Cowboys find themselves in the division lead, but nonetheless on some shaky ground. The defense will need to find some sort of consistency as the 2nd half begins, and could get off to a good start when the offensively inept Minnesota Vikings come to Arlington (1:00 EST, FOX). With New Orleans looming large the week after, and a rough loss on their shoulders after Sunday, the Viking game suddenly becomes a must-win…a phrase that Cowboys fans have dreaded for far too long.
Check back later this week for not just my preview on next week’s game, but a midseason report card as well!