Lions rally in 4th again, beat Dolphins 20-16
DETROIT (AP) The fourth quarter has been a lot friendlier this season to Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.
Stafford led Detroit to another victory in the final minutes Sunday, throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 29 seconds remaining to lift the Lions to a 20-16 win over the Miami Dolphins. Detroit has won four games in a row, and the past three victories came via thrilling fourth-quarter comebacks.
That’s a far cry from 2013, when the Lions lost six of their last seven games despite leading in the fourth quarter of all of them.
”I think a lot of guys just learned from last year,” linebacker DeAndre Levy said. ”Nobody starts pressing, nobody starts panicking. Always make sure you just do your job.”
Coach Jim Schwartz was fired after last season’s collapse, and Jim Caldwell took over. The NFC North-leading Lions (7-2) are now off to their best start since 1993, when they were also 7-2.
”We’re probably not as consistent as we’d like, but overall you’ve got to say this team has shown week in and week out, up to this point, that they’ll play you all the way to the end of the ball game,” Caldwell said. ”Sixty minutes, whatever it takes, they’re willing to give it.”
The Dolphins (5-4) have already endured a couple losses that could haunt them down the stretch. They lost to Green Bay last month on a touchdown with 3 seconds left. Then Miami let a late three-point lead slip away against Detroit.
”We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in. I knew they were a good defense, a good team and that we were going to have to make some tough plays,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
Here are a few things we learned from yet another tight victory by the Lions:
MEGATRON’S RETURN: After missing a month with an ankle injury, Calvin Johnson looked rested and ready, catching a 49-yard touchdown pass from Stafford in the first quarter with a vintage leaping grab at the goal line.
Johnson caught seven passes for 113 yards – his best numbers since the season opener.
NO ROOM: The Lions still don’t run the ball very effectively, but they don’t allow other teams to, either. Miami managed 50 yards on 19 carries, while Detroit had 63 yards on the same number of attempts.
KICKING STRUGGLES: It was one thing when the Lions were merely missing field goals. At least then, a missed scoring chance was the extent of the damage. On Sunday, Detroit’s Matt Prater had a field goal blocked and run back deep into Lions territory, setting up Miami’s only touchdown.
Prater bounced back to make a 50-yard kick in the fourth quarter, but Detroit is only 11 of 22 on field goals this season.
BEND BUT DON’T BREAK: The Dolphins will look back with disappointment on a couple good drives that ended in field goals. At the end of the first half, they reached the Detroit 5-yard line before settling for three points. Then in the fourth quarter, Miami made it all the way to the 2 before the Lions held.
Caleb Sturgis made a 20-yard field goal to put the Dolphins up 16-13, but Miami couldn’t hold on.
PRESSURE: On the Dolphins’ first two drives, Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Ziggy Ansah each had a sack and a tackle for loss. After that, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill looked considerably more comfortable. He ended up completing 27 of 38 passes.
”I thought the guys played hard. We got our feet underneath us a little bit,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. ”Certainly the first half wasn’t a thing of beauty for sure, but the guys were competing, made a couple plays and had a lot of opportunities in this game.”
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