DETROIT (AP) — Calvin Johnson almost broke an NFL record, and could celebrate the feat because of a comeback capped by his quarterback.
Matthew Stafford’s 1-yard lunge over a pile of linemen with 12 seconds left and Johnson’s 329 yards receiving lifted the Detroit Lions to a 31-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Stafford threw a 22-yard pass to Johnson, who had the second-most yards receiving in NFL history, to set up his winning score. The quarterback seemed to catch his hometown Cowboys by surprise. Some of them, including linebacker Sean Lee, appeared to expect him to spike the ball.
Johnson’s total trails only the 336 yards receiving Flipper Anderson had for the Los Angeles Rams against New Orleans on Nov. 26, 1989 in a game that went into overtime.
The Lions (5-3) overcame four turnovers and a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys (4-4).
Dallas seemed to set itself up to win three straight to stay alone atop the NFC North when Tony Romo threw his second touchdown — and third overall in the game — to Dez Bryant for 50 yards with 6:45 left for a 27-17 lead.
The Cowboys, though, allowed Reggie Bush to cap a long drive with a 1-yard TD, then had to settle for Dan Bailey’s third field goal with 1:02 left.
With no timeouts, the Lions went from their 20 to the Cowboys end zone thanks to a 17-yard pass to Johnson, a 40-yard connection with Kris Durham and Johnson’s 14th reception that gave them the ball at the Dallas 1.
Instead of spiking the ball, Stafford took the snap and leaped with his arms extended to beat the team he rooted for growing up in Highland Park, Texas.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2009 was 33 of 48 for 488 yards –his second-highest total — with a 2-yard TD pass to Johnson in the first quarter and two interceptions.
Bush had 92 yards rushing and a score. He had 30 yards receiving on eight receptions, including one on Detroit’s last drive.
Romo was 14 of 30, failing to complete half his passes for the first time since 2009, for 209 yards without a turnover.
Dallas began the game without two starters on both sides of the ball: DeMarco Murray and Miles Austin on offense, DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Wilcox on defense.
The Lions struggled to take advantage because they were careless with the ball. Stafford threw two interceptions in the first half to Lee. Bush fumbled early in the third period and Johnson fumbled later in the quarter.
In a matchup of two of the NFL’s best passing teams and worst against the pass, punters were on the field twice in the first quarter.
Detroit broke the scoreless tie with 54 seconds left in the quarter when Stafford converted a fourth down with a 2-yard pass to Johnson, who made sure his 87-yard reception during the drive wasn’t wasted. Johnson could’ve and probably should’ve caught a pass on Detroit’s next possession that Lee intercepted.
Bailey made a 53-yard field goal, matching his career high, to make it 7-3.
Stafford didn’t seem to see Lee lurking when he was in the perfect position to pick off a short pass at the Cowboys 22 and return it 50 yards. After running on the next play, Romo threw two straight passes to Bryant — after not making him the intended receiver once. Bryant caught the second one with his left hand, pinning it against his shoulder pad for a go-ahead, 5-yard TD with 46 seconds left in the first half.
Bailey kicked another 53-yard field goal to give Dallas a 13-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Despite adding to the lead, Bryant wasn’t happy. He flapped his arms and screamed at Romo on the sideline. And after the loss, Bryant was still steaming mad.