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Matthew Stafford's surprise caps dramatic Detroit Lions victory

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 8, the Detroit Lions' dramatic final-seconds victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions' epic win, as well as the Denver Broncos' fourth-quarter rally past the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" making a final stand against the St. Louis Rams are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 8.

So much drama was packed into 60 minutes of football action at Ford Field on Sunday that, thankfully, the Internet is a vast expanse of space to dig a little deeper into the unbelievable. This showdown featured a run at history and an unexpected run for victory as the Lions prevailed 31-30 in a game full of spirit and whipcord for the Cowboys.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

Megatron is almighty from the start

The play: Matthew Stafford connects with Calvin johnson for a 2-yard touchdown play to put the Lions up 7-0.

The aftermath: This brief, six-play, 90-yard scoring drive was foreshadowing for the absolute dominance Johnson would display in this game. An 87-yard catch-and-run-a-very-long-way play by Johnson set up the receiver's lone touchdown of the game.

Dez-perate times call for Dez-perate measures

The play: Cowboys quarterback connects with receiver Dez Bryant for a 5-yard touchdown. Bryant makes an amazing one-handed grab of the pass over two Lions defenders on the scoring play.

The aftermath: It would turn into an adventurous day for Bryant in what was billed in the pregame as a showdown of the NFL's top two receiving talents. The sideline behavior of Bryant became a major subplot to the Cowboys' defeat in Detroit. On the surface, it appeared the receiver lost his composure as the thrilling game unfolded. Footage released by NFL Films painted a very different picture of what was actually transpiring on the Cowboys sideline. After the game, Bryant responded to reporters about the sideline incidents saying his message was "all positive."

Rookie burns through Lions defense

The play: Romo connects with rookie receiver Terrance Williams for a 60-yard touchdown play.

The aftermath: The score gave the Cowboys a 10-point lead -- at 20-10 -- early in the fourth quarter. For Williams, it was his fourth consecutive game with a touchdown catch, which tied a Dallas team record. It was the first of two times the Cowboys would hold a two-score lead in the fourth quarter. After the Lions got to within 20-17 on 1-yard touchdown run by Joique Bell, the Cowboys responded with a 50-yard touchdown play by Bryant. It marked the third time this season that Bryant had two or more touchdowns in a game. This score gave the Cowboys a 27-17 lead with just under seven minutes left to play.

Bush keeps Lions within striking distance

The play: Reggie Bush scored on a 1-yard run with 3:37 left to play, capping an 80-yard drive and trimming the Cowboys' lead to 27-24.

The aftermath: The up-and-down-the-field nature of the fourth quarter of this game was in full effect. After just 20 points were scored in the first three quarters of play, a total of 41 points were scored in the final period. Bush finished the game with 122 total yards of offense, plus that aforementioned score, delighting fantasy football owners the world over.

Bailey gives Dallas six-point lead

The play: Kicker Dan Bailey is successful on a 44-yard field goal attempt with 1:07 remaining to give the Cowboys a 30-24 lead with little time left on the clock.

The aftermath: The Cowboys could have torn through more valuable seconds of the game clock if not for a holding penalty on the third-and-14 play before Bailey's kick. The penalty forced a clock-stoppage. While the minute of time meant the Lions' chances at the necessary touchdown were slim, it gave the team a sliver of hope of achieving the unlikely late-game comeback in what turned out to be one of the season's most scintillating games.

The moment

The play: Instead of spiking the football, Stafford executes a surprise 1-yard lunge for a touchdown over a pile of linemen with 12 seconds left, lifting the Lions to an epic 31-30 victory.

The aftermath: The play that set up Stafford's score was a 22-yard pass play to Johnson. That reception gave the otherworldly receiver 329 yards in the game. That total trails only the NFL single-game record 336 yards Willie "Flipper" Anderson posted for the Los Angeles Rams against the New Orleans Saints in 1989. Johnson's total did eclipse the Lions' team mark of 302, set in 1950 by Cloyce Box.

That hefty receiving yardage total from Anderson contributed to the team-record 623 total yards of offense posted by the Lions. The Lions won despite a minus-four turnover differential (entering Sunday, teams were a combined 1-54 when posting a minus-four turnover differential or worse going back to the 2011 season). The mass offense for Detroit meant a record-setting day for Dallas, too, though not what America's so-called team would have desired. The 623 total yards and 480 yards passing allowed by the Cowboys defense were both the most in franchise history.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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