Fans got the shoot out they expected Sunday at Ford Field, but not until the fourth quarter, as the the Detroit Lions scored 24 points in the final frame to win 31-30.
The Cowboys carried a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter, due largely to four Lions turnovers, then the two teams exploded for 41 points in the final frame. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford led an 80-yard drive with a minute on the clock for the winning score.
Quarterback Tony Romo threw two 50+ yard touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the second giving Dallas a 27-17 lead with 6:45 to play, but after that offensive coordinator Bill Callahan went conservative on the play calling and it appears to have cost the Cowboys an important road win, dropping the team to 4-4 at the season’s halfway point.
Protecting a 27-24 lead with just under three minutes to play, the Cowboys offense had an opportunity to end the game with a few first downs. They ran twice for -2 yards, then threw an incomplete pass on third down to give the ball back to Detroit with about 2:30 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher notched the first sack of the game, pinning Detroit back to second-down-and-18 on their own 25-yard-line at the two-minute warning. Slot corner Orlando Scandrick had a key pass breakup on fourth-and-12 to give the ball back to Dallas with about 90 seconds to play.
The Dallas offense ran twice for minus-4 yards, using up the last of Detroit’s time outs. A holding call on third down stopped the clock for Detroit with 1:07 to play. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz declined the penalty, preferring to deny the Cowboys an opportunity to run more time off the clock with another 3rd down play. Dan Bailey kicked a 44-yard field goal to put the Cowboys up by six.
One minute was all it took for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to go 80 yards and find the endzone, as he punched it in himself from the 1-yard line.
The Cowboys also lost the Dez Bryant-Calvin Johnson match up. Bryant had a nice day, catching three passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns; Johnson’s day was epic – 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown.
After trailing most of the first half, the Cowboys took a 10-7 following a third-down interception by linebacker Sean Lee, his second of the game. Lee jumped a third-and-five pass intended for wide receiver Jeremy Ross at the Dallas 22 yard line and returned it to the Detroit 3. Two plays later Bryant hit paydirt with an incredible one-handed touchdown in tight coverage.
Almost half of the Lions first-half offense consisted of a single play to Calvin Johnson – a six-yard slant that Johnson took 87 yards to the Cowboys 3. Johnson broke free by stiff-arming Brandon Carr, and was helped by a poor angle taken by safety Barry Church.
The defense stiffened, apparently forcing a field goal, but the Lions went for it on 4th down and Stafford hit Johnson on a wide-open slant for the only scoring in the first quarter.
The Cowboys answered with 10 points in the second quarter, putting together a 9-play 45-yard drive that resulted in a 53-yard field goal for kicker Dan Bailey, his longest of the year, before Lee’s big interception. Bailey added another 53-yarder in the third quarter.
Michigan native and undrafted free agent rookie Jeff Heath made his first NFL start, and forced one of two Detroit fumbles on the day. The Cowboys won the turnover battle 4-0, becoming just the second team in the past three seasons to win the turnover margin by four and lose the game.