The fourth and final game of wildcard weekend featured the Detroit Lions heading south to Dallas, Texas to take on the Cowboys. The Cowboys started at their 20-yard line and had a quick three and out. Punter Chris Jones hit a 41-yard punt that was downed at the Detroit 38-yard line. On second and ten from the 49, quarterback Matt Stafford went deep for wide receiver Golden Tate and he hauled in the pass for a 51-yard touchdown. Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Lions jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with 11:22 to go in the first quarter.
The Cowboys managed to get a first down on their next possession, but the drive came to a halt when quarterback Tony Romo couldn’t complete a pass on fourth and seven to wide receiver Cole Beasley. Jones punted and the ball was downed at the Detroit one-yard line. Three plays netted five yards and the Lions were forced to punt. Punter Sam Martin’s punt went out of bounds at the Detroit 44-yard line. Wait a minute. There’s a flag on the play. The Cowboys were flagged for running into the kicker and that gave the Lions a first down at the 12-yard line. A short pass to Tate and a scramble by Stafford netted a first down at the 23-yard line. An 11-yard carry by running back Joique Bell, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson and an 18-yard pass to Bell moved the Lions into Dallas territory. Two more carries by Bell put them at the 18. From the 18, running back Reggie Bush ran up the left side for a touchdown to cap a 99-yard drive. Prater made the point after and the Lions were up 14-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Cowboys still couldn’t get the ball rolling and ended up punting again. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 2:15 mark. That’s when the Cowboys finally got on the board. On third and 12 from the 24, Romo let one fly and the pass was caught for a 76-yard touchdown by wide receiver Terrance Williams. Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the Lions led 14-7 with 1:37 to go in the first half.
The Lions started at their 20 and two passes to running back Theo Riddick gained 20 yards. From the 40, Stafford completed a 19-yard pass to Johnson. That was followed by an incomplete pass and a five-yard pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller. That set up a third and five from the Dallas 36. Stafford completed a pass to Tate that was ruled short of the first down marker. But replay showed that the yardage gained was good enough for a first down. Stafford completed a nine-yard pass to Bush as time was running short. With three seconds to go in the half, Prater made his 39-yard field goal attempt and the Lions led 17-7 at halftime.
Things got off to a great start for the Cowboys in the second half. Stafford looked for Tate over the middle and the pass was picked off by linebacker Kyle Wilber. That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19-yard line. But on third and one from the ten, Romo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Well, Bailey is a good kicker. He shouldn’t have much trouble with a 41-yard field goal. Wrong. The kick sailed wide right and the Cowboys failed to cash in on a golden opportunity.
The Lions took over at their 31 and on second and six, Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 11 yards. After a short carry by Bush, Stafford looked for Johnson again and found him for a gain of 28 yards and a first down at the Dallas 26-yard line. But the drive would stall at the 19-yard line. Prater came on again and his 37-yard field goal attempt was good. That gave the Lions a 20-7 lead with 8:41 to go in the third quarter.
The Cowboys took over at their 20 and moved the ball with running back DeMarco Murray. Murray had three carries and a seven-yard reception. That gave them a first down at the 50-yard line. On third and ten from the 50, Romo threw a short pass to his left that was caught by wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant turned on the speed and weaved his way through several defenders. He was finally dragged down at the seven-yard line. Murray took it the rest of the way on the next play, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on the Cowboys. From the 17, Romo found Beasley across the middle for a gain of 15 yards. From the two, Romo completed a short pass to tight end Jason Witten, but he was stopped short of the end zone. On third and goal from the one, Murray ran up the middle and was stuffed for no gain. That brought up a crucial fourth and goal from the one. The Cowboys decided to go for it and Murray ran off left tackle for a touchdown. Bailey made the point after and the Lions lead was now 20-14 with 2:54 to go in the third quarter.
The Lions had a quick three and out on their next possession and the Cowboys took over at their 31. They quickly moved to mid-field as Romo found Beasley for a gain of 19 yards. Murray ran for five more yards and on second and five from the Detroit 45, Romo completed another pass to Beasley. This one was good for 12 yards. Then another flag was thrown. Unnecessary roughness was called on the Lions and the Cowboys now had a first down at the 18. That’s when the Lion defense stepped up. Murray was stuffed for no gain and Romo was sacked on back to back plays. That was meant it was time for Bailey to try another field goal. His 51-yard attempt was good and the Lions led 20-17 with 12:16 to go in the game.
The Lions got the ball back at their five-yard line. On second and 12 from the three, Stafford completed a 21-yard pass to Fuller for a first down at the 24. A short run by Bush and a 19-yard pass to Johnson moved the Lions to the Dallas 45-yard line. From the 45, Bush ran for a gain of four yards. Bell got the call on the next play and ran for five yards. That made it third and one from the 46. Instead of running it again, Stafford threw to the left side for Pettigrew. The pass was incomplete due to the fact that Pettigrew was interfered with by linebacker Anthony Hitchens. The flags flew and it looked like the Lions would have another first down. All of a sudden, the flag was picked up and the zebras reversed the call. You’ve GOT to be kidding. Actually, when it comes to the NFL, hardly anything I see the zebras do shocks me. Still, that was definitely pass interference. That made it fourth and one from the 46. All the Lions needed to do was get one yard to keep the drive alive. Instead, Stafford tried to draw the Cowboys offside. In other words, he didn’t snap the ball and took a delay of game penalty. Lions, you baffle me. You really do. To make things really incredible, Martin shanked the punt. It went TEN freaking yards.
Starting at the 41, the Cowboys went to work. A 13-yard pass to Murray got them into Detroit territory. That was followed by a few short runs by Murray and Romo completed a 21-yard pass to Witten on fourth and six. The pass to Witten gave the Cowboys a first down at the 21. A defensive holding on the Lions netted another first down at the 16. The next two plays gained three yards and on third and seven, Romo completed a short pass to running back Lance Dunbar, but he was thrown for a loss of two yards. Wait a minute. There’s another flag on the ground. This time, it was defensive holding on linebacker DeAndre Levy. That gave the Cowboys a first down at the eight-yard line. An incomplete pass on first down was followed by a five-yard run by Murray. That moved the ball to the three-yard line. A false start on the Cowboys moved them back to the eight. From the eight, Romo took the snap, had time and fired a pass across the middle that was caught by Williams for a touchdown. Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 24-20 with 2:32 to go in the game.
The Lions took over at their 20 and on second and four, Stafford was sacked by defensive end Anthony Spencer. The ball came loose and it was recovered by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. All he had to do was fall on it and that would pretty much seal a win for the Cowboys. Instead, he tried to advance it and the ball was loose once again. It was recovered by offensive tackle Riley Reiff and the Lions retained possession at their 23-yard line. With two minutes to go, Stafford spread the ball around to three different receivers and moved into Dallas territory. On fourth and three from the Dallas 42, Stafford was sacked for a loss of nine. The ball came loose again and Lawrence fell on it. That was the nail in the coffin. The Cowboys came from behind and won 24-20.
For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 42 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Golden Tate led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 89. On the ground, the Lions rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries. Joique Bell was the leading rusher with 43 yards on 12 carries. Defensively, linebacker James Ihedigbo led the team in solo tackles with seven. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh led the team in sacks with two.
For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 19 of 31 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Witten led the team in receptions with five and Terrance Williams had the most receiving yards with 92 and two touchdowns. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown. The only other player with any rushing stats is Romo. He had two carries for minus two yards. Defensively, safety J.J. Wilcox led the team in solo tackles with seven.
Up next for the Cowboys is a trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers. That game will be on Sunday at 1:05 eastern time.