Stafford, Johnson lift Lions
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — Calvin Johnson thought Matthew Stafford was going to spike the ball for at least another snap.
The Dallas Cowboys did, too.
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 Dallas on Sunday.
“I was yelling that I was going to spike the ball,” Stafford recalled. “But their linebackers were just standing there.”
The Cowboys weren’t just standing around letting Johnson make catch after catch, but he made them look helpless.
Johnson almost broke an NFL record, and could celebrate the feat because of a comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit that some people who entered Ford Field didn’t see because they had left.
“Even our fans didn’t think we could pull this one out,” he said. “They were leaving, but we knew we could do it.”
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. Anderson had 296 yards receiving in regulation.
The Cowboys dared Detroit to throw to Johnson with a lot of one-on-one coverage. They usually asked cornerback Brandon Carr to do the improbable by defending him by himself, and sometimes attempted to slow him down with a zone.
“He had his way,” Carr said. “And, we couldn’t find a way to keep him from rolling.”
“It was crazy,” he said. “We had a lot of one-on-one coverage today, and we were able to take advantage and hit some deep balls. Matt made some great throws to me.”
The Lions (5-3) overcame four turnovers without forcing a turnover, becoming the first team to do that and win since New England did against Miami in 2007, according to STATS.
On their last drive, Stafford threw a 22-yard pass to Johnson to set up the winning score. The quarterback caught at least some Cowboys by surprise, including linebacker Sean Lee, who appeared to expect him to spike the ball to stop the clock.
“He kind of caught us off-guard,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher acknowledged.
Dallas (4-4) seemed to set itself up to win three straight for the first time this year to build a bigger lead atop the NFC East when Tony Romo threw his second touchdown — and third of the game — to Dez Bryant with 6:45 left to take 27-17 lead.
The Cowboys, though, allowed Reggie Bush to cap an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD with 3:33 left. They also had to settle for Dan Bailey’s third field goal with 1:02 left after Tyron Smith was flagged for holding on third down, a mistake that stopped the clock even though Detroit declined the penalty.
“If we don’t get called for a penalty, I think they probably had 20 seconds or so left,” Romo said.
With no timeouts, the Lions went from their 20 to the Cowboys end zone thanks in large part 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.
“I was just as fooled as the defense was,” Lions offensive guard Larry Warford said.
Stafford 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. Reggie Bush had 92 yards rushing and a score.
Romo was 14 of 30, failing to complete half his passes for the first time since 2009, for 206 yards without a turnover.
Dallas began the game without two starters on both sides of the ball: DeMarco Murray and Miles Austin on offense and DeMarcus Ware and J.J. Wilcox on defense.
Late in the first half, Romo threw two straight passes to Bryant — after not making him the intended receiver once — and he 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.
Despite leading by six in the third quarter, Bryant didn’t look happy. He flapped his arms and screamed at Romo on the sideline. After the loss, Bryant insisted his demonstrative actions were a result of his positive passion.
“People who have a problem with me are the people that don’t understand what is going on,” he said.
CHIEFS 23, BROWNS 17
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and the Kansas City Chiefs held off the scrappy Cleveland Browns late in the fourth quarter to preserve a victory and remain the NFL’s lone undefeated team.
The Chiefs (8-0), off to their best start since 2003, built a 20-7 lead late in the first half before the Browns (3-4) made it a game.
Jason Campbell, starting in place of the ineffective Brandon Weeden, threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns.
The Chiefs kept stopping the Browns down the stretch. They forced a turnover on downs with just over 2 minutes left, and Ryan Succop kicked his third field goal in the closing seconds to help seal the victory.
PACKERS 44, VIKINGS 31
MINNEAPOLIS — Aaron Rodgers threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns to lead Green Bay over Minnesota.
Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes and Jordy Nelson had 123 yards receiving for the Packers. Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter, and Eddie Lacy rushed for 94 yards and a score for Green Bay (5-2).
Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff and Adrian Peterson rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (1-6). But Christian Ponder struggled again in his return to the starting lineup and the Packers scored on every possession until they took a knee to end the game.
BRONCOS 45, REDSKINS 21
DENVER — Peyton Manning overcame four turnovers and Denver scored the last 38 points against former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and his new team. Manning finished with 354 yards and four touchdown passes to offset his three interceptions and lost fumble.
His first two turnovers led to points that gave the Redskins (2-5) a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. From there, Manning led the Broncos (7-1) on two long scoring drives, then the go-ahead score on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Knowshon Moreno.
Robert Griffin III finished with 132 yards passing, one score and two interceptions for Washington before hurting his left knee.
Griffin’s replacement, Kirk Cousins, threw an interception that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned 75 yards for Denver’s final points.
SAINTS 35, BILLS 17
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for five touchdowns and 332 yards, and the New Orleans Saints pulled away for a victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played after missing practice most of the week with a left foot injury and scored on 13- and 15-yard passes over the middle, powering through tackles at the goal line both times.
Rookie Kenny Stills had touchdowns of 69 and 42 yards for the Saints (6-1) and Lance Moore snagged a 15-yard scoring pass in his return from a hand injury that sidelined him three games.
Thad Lewis was sacked four times, intercepted once, lost two fumbles and appeared shaken up at times, but stayed in the game for the Bills (3-5), finishing with 234 yards passing and one touchdown. Buffalo’s Fred Jackson scored on a 1-yard run.
BENGALS 49, JETS 9
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton threw a career-high five touchdown passes, four of them to Marvin Jones.
Jones set a Bengals record for touchdown receptions, scoring on catches of 9, 6, 17 and 6 yards.
Dalton’s five touchdown passes gave him 11 in his last three games, his best such span. He’s the first quarterback to throw for five TDs against the Jets since Dan Marino in 1988.
The Bengals (6-2) won their fourth in a row and padded their AFC North lead.
New York (4-4) took its most lopsided loss since 2010. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
RAIDERS 21, STEELERS 18
OAKLAND, Calif. — Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards on the first play from scrimmage for the longest touchdown run by a quarterback, and the Raiders won following a bye week for the first time since 2002.
Darren McFadden added two touchdown runs and the defense did the rest for the Raiders (3-4), who had been outscored by more than 13 points a game in losing their last 10 games out of the bye.
Ben Roethlisberger struggled against heavy pressure from Oakland’s front, and Shaun Suisham missed two short field goals as Pittsburgh (2-5) squandered any momentum gained during back-to-back wins following an 0-4 start.
CARDS 27, FALCONS 13
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rookie Andre Ellington rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run, and the Cardinals intercepted Matt Ryan four times.
Ellington’s big run, tied for third longest in Cardinals history, was part of a 21-point second quarter that put the Cardinals (4-4) in control for good.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, in the process becoming the youngest player — at 30 years, 57 days — in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions.
Ryan had thrown three interceptions total in the first six games of the season for the Falcons (2-5). Rashad Johnson had two of Arizona’s interceptions.
The Cardinals picked off Ryan five times when the teams played last season.
PATRIOTS 27, DOLPHINS 17
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots shook off a dismal first half and another mediocre performance by Tom Brady to beat the Miami Dolphins.
Trailing 17-3 after gaining just 59 yards in the half, the Patriots quickly turned the game around in the third quarter with two touchdowns in a span of seven plays.
The Patriots (6-2) outscored the Dolphins (3-4) in the third quarter 17-0. Miami lost its fourth straight game.
Brady completed 13 of 22 passes for just 116 yards, but threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson with 6:32 gone in the third quarter that began the comeback.
49ERS 42, JAGUARS 10
LONDON — Colin Kaepernick led the way with his arm and with his feet, throwing for one touchdown and running for two more to lead the San Francisco 49ers over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.
Kaepernick ended up with 164 yards passing and 54 yards rushing, and Frank Gore also ran for two scores for the 49ers (6-2).
The Jaguars (0-8) were the “home” team at London’s iconic soccer venue, playing in the British capital for the first of their four-year run of regular-season NFL games in London. It was the eighth regular-season NFL game at Wembley, the home of England’s national soccer team, and the second this year. The Minnesota Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 last month.
GIANTS 15, EAGLES 7
PHILADELPHIA — Josh Brown kicked a career-high five field goals, Eli Manning played error-free and the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
Michael Vick returned for the Eagles (3-5) after missing 2½ games with a hamstring injury, but clearly wasn’t healthy and was removed for rookie Matt Barkley late in the second quarter.
The Giants (2-6) snapped an eight-game road losing streak while extending Philadelphia’s home losing streak to 10 games. The Eagles’ last win at the Linc was over the Giants on Sept. 30, 2012.
Chip Kelly’s high-flying offense that racked up at least 425 yards in each of the first six games has been grounded. The Eagles followed a 17-3 loss to Dallas with another poor offensive effort. They had just 201 yards of offense and have totaled 479 the past two weeks.
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