Lions pull off an improbable 26-23 come-from-behind victory
Matthew Stafford struggled for most of Sunday's game in Philadelphia. Through three quarters of play, the Lions signal-caller had completed just seven passes and had a 28.1 quarterback rating.
But it's the final score and what happens in the fourth quarter that ultimately defines a quarterback's worth, and Stafford's fourth quarter was one that can make you overlook the previous three.
In the final quarter, Stafford was 15-of-24 passing for 220 yards. He threw a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and led the Lions 79 yards down the field with just 2:27 left in the game to set up Jason Hanson for the game-tying field goal in overtime. His quarterback rating was 106.3 over that span.
In the overtime period, Stafford completed passes to Tony Scheffler and Calvin Johnson to set the table for a 45-yard game-winning field goal by Hanson as the Lions pulled off an improbable 26-23 come-from-behind victory.
It was the eighth fourth-quarter comeback in Stafford's career as he led the Lions to scores in four of their five possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"It's probably easier to just fold it in and go home packing," Stafford said of the Lions comeback from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. "This team has a heck of a lot of fight. That's something we pride ourselves on. Obviously we did not play a great game. We did on defense. We didn't on offense. "
Until the fourth quarter, that is.
Stafford finished 22-of-45 passing for 311 yards with one touchdown, one interception and another rushing touchdown. Stafford's final quarterback rating was 69.8.
"You know, he's got confidence in his teammates, he has confidence in the defense, he has confidence in himself," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of his quarterback.
"I think we've proved as a team that we haven't played our best yet, but we're never out of any game. We keep coming back. At this point we have the best team victory."
Stafford threw a touchdown pass to receiver Nate Burleson with 3:38 remaining in the game to trim the Eagles' lead to 23-20. After an Eagles punt, Stafford led them 79 yards to the 1-yard line with 17 seconds left in the game. He took two shots at the end zone that went incomplete before turning it over to Hanson to tie the game.
Stafford and the offense were set up in overtime for their first possession of the extra period at midfield after Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and defensive tackle Nick Fairley had consecutive sacks on quarterback Michael Vick on Philadelphia's first possession of overtime.
The Eagles were forced to punt out of their own end zone.
"We thrive in moments like this," said Burleson. "Coach Schwartz has done a great job in preparing us for adversity.
"A lot of teams don't embrace that. We embrace those wild moments, those moments where people need to step up. I think that the whole team wanted to be a hero and we had guys that did that."
Stafford's heroics overshadow a sloppy performance by the Lions that included 16 penalties for 132 yards and a 3-for-13 performance on third down.
In the end, though, the Lions found a way to win and that's the most important thing for a team desperate for one. The victory improves the Lions' record to 2-3 on the season as they now get ready for next week's showdown with the Bears on Monday Night.
"I think it was a big step for us as a team, playing team football today and it was a lot of spirit and guys picking each other up," Schwartz said. "I think that's a good sign of things to come for this team."
Stafford and the Lions proved last year that they're never out of game. On Sunday, they reminded us all.