Who's Got Megatron?
The stakes were high for both the visiting Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.
The Cowboys, riding a two-game winning streak, hoped to open some more distance in their division, knowing that the Giants and Eagles were playing each other. The Lions knew that division foe Green Bay was unlikely to lose to hapless Minnesota, and they had to win to stay within striking distance, especially with the Bears in the hunt as well.
Want big plays? Sunday’s matchup had several games’ worth. Want the agony of defeat? Ask Jason Garrett and Tony Romo about that. Want the ecstasy of victory? Turn to Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and a nervous Ford Field crowd that turned giddy when it was all over.
It’s tough to know where to start. Long strike was matched by long strike, big play by big play. The Lions gained 623 yards but also turned the ball over four times to none for the Cowboys.
Where I start with is this: Where in the world was the Dallas defense? Sure, DeMarcus Ware was out, but the Lions roamed at will up and down the field. Forcing four turnovers should’ve been enough, especially with three long TD strikes by Romo. But it wasn't.
You could start with the final possession. The Lions had the ball with less than a minute left and no timeouts. They were on their own 20 and down six. Any sort of stand at all by the ‘Boys would result in a win. They couldn’t do it.
It’s forgivable to give up a long play to Calvin Johnson, who ran wild with 14 catches and 329 yards. But the long pass to Kris Durham was harder to understand. Someone should’ve been there to get him well before he gained 40 yards.
Megatron made another big play to get down to the one, and then Stafford pulled a rabbit out of his hat for the game-winner.
He ran down the field, signaling that he was going to spike the ball. No one on either side of the ball was ready when he just jumped over the center for a touchdown. Wow. That’s audacity. Or maybe foreshadowing to a promising acting career.
This felt like a playoff game. The Lions, faced with a fourth-and-goal at the two in the first half, went for it, with Stafford tossing a strike to Johnson.
The Cowboys twice had 10-point leads in the fourth quarter, and just couldn’t stop the Lions. Only turnovers stopped the Silver Rush from reaching paydirt.
The Lions showed the resilience and tenacity of a playoff team. They’re in new territory, and it was the Cowboys – with Dez Bryant’s adolescent temper tantrums on the sideline – who lost their cool. It’s unlikely that Bryant accomplished anything except heat up Garrett’s coach’s seat.
What a difference a game makes. Dallas now has to deal with the Giants, who dispatched the Eagles easily in Philly, and perhaps Washington as well. The G-Men are only two games back in the division and play the ‘Boys next week.
The Lions are only a half-game behind the Packers, and in decent shape for the wild card. They made mistakes, but overcame them. They’re not going to turn the ball over four times often. (Stafford threw two picks, one of which was not his fault, and Reggie Bush and Megatron each fumbled.) They have a dynamic offense and a balanced attack. Their two-headed backfield of Bush and Joique Bell works well. They can rush the passer and their coverage is solid. Watch out. This is not the Lions team we’ve all been used to. They were true to great Lions past such as Alex Karras and Barry Sanders, rather than the inept losers we’ve been used to seeing each Sunday.
As for Dallas, the columnists will pull out their long knives and the fans will quibble about a possible scapegoat. Romo? No interceptions, he played well and you can’t very well blame him for a weak running game. Bryant? Whiny, but he scored twice. The defense? Sure.
But this is likely to be dumped at the feet of Garrett, who joins the ever-larger crowd of coaches with diminishing job security. Someone needs to explain why the team chose to defend Megatron with just one guy.