Desperate to save a season, Matthew Stafford rallied the Lions in the fourth quarter.
With a chance to cap an unlikely comeback, Jason Hanson finished the job in OT.
Down 10 points in the fourth period, Stafford put a miserable start behind him, scrambling into the end zone and completing big-gain passes. Hanson delivered in the clutch just like he has so many times through the seasons, kicking a 45-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Lions to a 26-23 OT win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
”Playing 20-plus years in the league, you go out there and know it’s more than a just a kick for that game,” said Hanson, at 42 the oldest player in the league and in his 21st pro season. ”We needed it. We needed it bad. We had been close a couple of times this year and hadn’t come through. We needed it for that reason and to get our season on track.”
The rally prevented the Lions (2-3) from a 1-4 start a year after opening 5-0 en route to their first playoff appearance since 1999
Stafford ran and threw for a TD in the fourth quarter and Hanson kicked two field goals to accelerate the comeback. Stafford finished with 311 yards passing, one TD and one interception.
”These guys in that locker room, they fight. They fight until the end,” Stafford said. ”Whether it’s a game or season, it doesn’t matter.”
Down 23-13 after Michael Vick’s 70-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin with 5:18 left, the Lions answered.
Detroit had two shots from the Eagles 1 following a pass interference penalty on Colt Anderson with 13 seconds left in regulation. But Stafford misfired on both passes and Hanson kicked a 19-yard field goal.
The Lions then sacked Vick on the first two plays of the extra quarter, forced a punt out of the end zone and started at midfield.
Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for a 17-yard gain to the Eagles 27. A few plays later, Hanson nailed the winner.
”That’s scary when you’re out there and you know what it’s for,” Hanson said.
Johnson had 135 yards receiving, but the All-Pro wideout still has no TD catches from Stafford this season. He was called for offensive pass interference to negate his 11-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
The undisciplined Lions overcame 16 penalties, most in the NFL this season.
The Lions also overcame a sluggish first three quarters by Stafford. He threw for only 91 yards in the first half and the Lions didn’t score in the second or third quarters.
That all went out the window in the fourth when Stafford led them on three consecutive scoring drives.
”He has confidence in his teammates, defense and himself,” coach Jim Schwartz said. ”When you have all three of those, you are going to make plays in the game. We’re never out of any game. This was probably our best team victory.”
The Eagles (3-3) head into their bye with two straight losses. After Detroit closed within 16-13 in the fourth, the Eagles got their biggest play of the season when Vick connected with Maclin on a deep slant pass. It was Philadelphia’s first play for more than 49 yards all season.
No problem for the Lions. Stafford had found his groove.
Stafford threw a 57-yard pass to Tony Scheffler and then tossed a 17-yard pass to Nate Burleson to cut it to 23-20 with 3:32 left.
The Eagles went three-and-out and Stafford drove the Lions downfield to tie.
Vick shook off a poor start and the offense finally got going late in the second quarter. Vick completed four straight passes for 48 yards, including a 17-yarder to Maclin on third-and-10. He hit LeSean McCoy on a 2-yard pass to put Philadelphia up 7-6.
Vick’s streak of three straight games without getting picked ended when his wildly overthrown pass to Jason Avant was intercepted by Louis Delmas in the second quarter. It was Vick’s 12th turnover of the season and the first interception of the season for Detroit.
Vick threw for 311 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
”It’s a good time for a bye,” Vick said. ”I think we need to just kind of figure out what we need to do to finish games.”
The Eagles increased their lead to 10-6 on Alex Henery’s 26-yard field goal on the first series of the second half. Henery kicked a 32-yarder to make it 13-6 after Brent Celek was called for offensive pass interference to negate his 3-yard TD catch.
That penalty turned out to be the difference.
Henery’s 49-yarder early in the fourth period extended the margin to 16-6 for Philadelphia’s biggest lead of the season.
But the Lions got right back in it when Stafford led an 80-play drive, finishing it with a 1-yard run. Johnson, held to just one previous catch, caught passes of 37 and 20 yards on the drive.
”In the fourth quarter, the guys just willed themselves to make plays,” Stafford said.
Because they did, the Lions have one very nice comeback win.
NOTES: Eagles rookie Fletcher Cox was ejected in the fourth quarter after getting an unnecessary roughness penalty for punching a player on Detroit’s extra point. … Lions CB Jacob Lacey left with a concussion. … Johnson’s only TD catch this season came on a pass from Shaun Hill. … Lions FS Delmas was active and starting for the first time this season after having knee surgery in August. … Ricky Watters was the honorary captain for Philadelphia.