Lions 34, Cowboys 30

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson comes down with the winning touchdown catch, a 2-yarder with 1:39 remaining, and holds on despite being slammed to the turf by Dallas’ Terence Newman.

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Lions receiver Calvin Johnson comes down with the winning touchdown catch, a 2-yarder with 1:39 remaining, and holds on despite being slammed to the turf by Dallas’ Terence Newman.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Matthew Stafford took the final snap, dropped to a knee and tucked the ball under his jersey for safekeeping.

He wanted a souvenir to remind him of his first NFL game in his hometown — not that he, or anyone else involved, is likely to forget this one.

A week after erasing a 20-point halftime deficit in an overtime win at Minnesota, the Lions provided further proof they're a legitimate contender Sunday, turning a 24-point, third-quarter deficit into a 34-30 victory over the Cowboys.

Detroit's defense started the rally with interceptions returned for touchdowns on consecutive drives. Stafford and Calvin Johnson took over from there, hooking up for two touchdowns in the final quarter, including the 2-yard winner with 1:39 left.

"It's crazy how it happens," Stafford said. "When it was 27-3, we knew we had to start making plays. Once we did, we started catching fire."

Detroit is 4-0 and has won an NFL-best eight straight games. This also was its franchise-record fifth straight road win, avenging a loss here in November that had been its NFL-record 26th straight road loss.

In the opener, Tony Romo and the Cowboys squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead for the first time in franchise history, and this was their largest lead blown ever. On Nov. 28, 1965, Dallas led Washington 21-0 in the second quarter and lost 34-31.

Romo had two interceptions returned for TDs, and an interception with 4:13 left set up Detroit's winning score. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was quick to defend his quarterback, saying: "I have a lot of faith in Romo. This doesn't touch that."

Dallas' final offensive play was wacky, too, with Felix Jones catching a short pass with no one around him on fourth and 20, then running out of bounds after only gaining 8 yards.

"Today and over the next week or two, it's going to be difficult to look back at it, but at some point here, we're going to move on," Romo said. "There's a lot of guys doing a lot of good things."

Stafford had dozens of relatives and friends in the crowd, including his high school coach. But his first pass to Johnson was intercepted, leading to Dallas' first touchdown. The defense was constantly in his face, forcing rushed throws or throwaways, and he was 9-of-23 at the half.

But he and Johnson connected on a 23-yarder in the end zone, as Johnson reached over three defenders, to make it 30-24. After a third interception by Romo led to a 51-yard field goal by Jason Hanson, Stafford and Johnson connected for the winner. It came against tight coverage on a play when there were 12 Cowboys on the field.

The Lions especially enjoyed Johnson being the late-game star because last week Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said Johnson would only be Dallas' third-best receiver.

"He got a lot of respect for him for not being the best receiver on their team," Stafford said. "(Ryan) throws a couple of guys on him here and there."

Bobby Carpenter's leaping interception and weaving 35-yard return for a score closed the gap to 27-10.

"The key play of the game was Bobby Carpenter," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "We had no juice before that. It wasn't the game-winner, it didn't turn the tide completely. But it did give us the spark and got things going a little bit."

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Lions 34, Cowboys 30 10/02/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 2, 2011 9:52pm]

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