The Detroit Lions squeaked out a dramatic victory in London, winning 22-21 on a Matt Prater field goal as time expired.
The result was a familiar one for Lions fans, only for once their team wasn’t the one blowing the second half lead.
The first half certainly had fans crying, “Same old Lions.” Atlanta ran up an easy 21 point lead on two Matt Ryan touchdown passes and a Steven Jackson touchdown run. The Lions even had an impressive 102-yard pick six called back due to offsetting penalties.
Throw in the the CJ Mosley suspension and Nick Fairley’s second quarter knee injury and fans couldn’t be blamed for turning off their TV’s and getting an early start on yard work. (MLive reports Fairley’s injury could see him sidelined for a while).
But this team may not be your father’s Lions. Matthew Stafford and company took advantage of poor play and even poorer clock management by the Falcons, scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half. Stafford threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, setting a franchise record for most career touchdowns by a Lions quarterback in the process.
Lions fans are used to seeing second half comebacks like this. They’re just usually on the receiving end. This time, it was the Falcons shooting themselves in the foot. Teams should not lose when up three scores in the second half. Yet turnovers and an inability to sustain drives in the second half, combined with improved play by the Lions offense, had Detroit down two with only minutes left to play.
Atlanta looked set to run out the clock, forcing Detroit to use their final timeouts and running the clock down to the two minute warning. Then, Falcons coach Mike Smith did was he does best: horribly mismanage the clock. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution puts the loss squarely on Smith’s shoulders).
Instead of kneeling on the ball, Smith decided to call runs, leading to an offensive holding call that stopped the clock. On third down, Smith inexplicably called a pass play, resulting in a clock stopping incompletion. After punting, the Lions had 1:38 to get into field goal range.
The Lions, without start receiver Calvin Johnson for the third straight game, did just that, driving 51 yards to set up the game winning field goal.
Prater, the Lions third kicker this year, missed his first attempt and hearts dropped across Detroit. They were given a second chance when a delay of game penalty was called, giving Prater a second chance. His game winner sailed through the uprights as time expired, leaving Detroit at 6-2, good enough for first place in the NFC North following Green Bay’s loss.
In years past, the Lions would have given up after the first half, or turned the ball over on the final drive, or missed the game winning kick. They have made Detroit fans miserable with their knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. On Sunday, the Lions flipped the script, leaving Falcons fans to feel Detroit’s pain.
[Photo courtesy of The Detroit Free Press]