Another week, another close game for the Detroit Lions who seem to be making a habit of late 4th quarter comebacks. This week, the Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-16 on a touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Theo Riddick with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Detroit Lions actually started this game by jumping out to a 10 point lead in the first quarter, but the offense just could not get anything going after that, waiting until the 4th quarter before mounting its much needed comeback.
Both the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions came into today’s game riding a 3 game win streak. Detroit, coming off a bye, needed to get a win today due to the schedule toughening up in the coming weeks. The Dolphins, coming off a shellacking of the San Diego Chargers, needed a win to prove their legitimacy in the tough AFC North. The Detroit Lions were the first to strike, driving down to their own 45 yard line before their drive stalled. Or did it? Head coach Jim Caldwell called for a fake punt and Sam Martin delivered with a 24 yard pass to Jed Collins. The Lions continued to drive the ball down to the Miami 8 before settling for a 26 yard field goal by Matt Prater.
The NFL’s number one defense came out and completely stifled Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the Dolphins opening drive, stopping Lamar Miller for a 2 yard loss, sacking Tannehill for a 10 yard loss, and then stopping Miller again after a 5 yard run. The Miami punt gave the Lions the ball at the Miami 49 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Stafford decided to test Miami’s number 3 defense and launched a 49 yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. Just like that, the Lions were up 10-0 in the opening quarter. It looked like the Lions were set to rout the Dolphins, except it did not happen that way. Both teams went back and forth with stalled drives until Detroit looked like it finally had something going. They started at their own 11 and Stafford hit Joique Bell for 28 yards. Bell then ran for a 16 yard run and a 5 yard run. Suddenly Detroit was in Miami territory and looking to put more points on the board. When the drive stalled at the Miami 41 yard line, Jim Caldwell went to the well one more time with a fake punt. This time Miami was prepared and Martin’s pass to Isa Abdul-Quddus only went for 3 of the needed 5 yards.
Miami took the ball on that next drive and with the help of some costly Lions penalties, they drove deep into Detroit territory. With the ball down to the Detroit 19 on 3rd and 7, hoping to cut into Detroit’s lead, Tannehill threw an ill advised pass that was picked off by Detroit safety James Ihedigbo. Ihedigbo returned the interception 70 yards but could not score, getting tackled by Tannehill at about the 10 yard line. Ihedigbo’s hand though grasped Tannehill’s facemask on the way down and got him a 15 yard penalty. Matthew Stafford tried to take advantage of the momentum by heaving a deep pass to Johnson in the end zone but the pass was intercepted on a nice one handed leaping pick by Miami corner Brent Grimes. Miami proceeded to drive the length of the field again, this time getting a field goal out of it . The Lions led 10-3 at halftime.
After a stellar return by Jarvis Landry on the kickoff, Miami started at their own 42. Tannehill got his team into Detroit territory but Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas fumbled the ball and Detroit recovered it. Detroit once again stalled on offense and gave Miami the ball back. The Dolphins drove the field again, capping it off with a Caleb Sturgis 50 yard field goal to make it 10-6 Detroit.
Detroit finally got it going on offense with Stafford hitting Golden Tate for 14 yards, Bell for 9 yards and a couple of nice runs by Bell to get into Miami territory. When the drive stalled on 4th and 6, just outside field goal range, Stafford threw a strike to Johnson who caught it after bobbling it a few times. The 12 yarder gave Detroit the first down and what looked like new life. That was until they committed a penalty on first down making it almost impossible for them to get the first down. After two nice passes, one for 6 yards and one for 8, Detroit settled for a 42 yard field goal by Matt Prater. This is where things got weird though. Prater hit the ball low and the kick was blocked. Dion Jordan returned it for Miami 58 yards. They scored on the very next play on a pass to Mike Wallace. The game was now Miami’s to lose, leading 13-10. Detroit answered immediately though, driving from their 18 on passes to Tate and Johnson of 5, 28, and 17. The drive stalled again in Miami territory though, allowing Prater another shot at a field goal. Prater hit it from 50 easily clearing Miami’s defensive line. Detroit was now tied at 13.
The Dolphins drove the ball slowly down the field, chewing up almost 8 minutes of clock, and got the ball all the way down to the Detroit 2 yard line before settling on a 20 yard field goal. With a 16-13 Miami lead, this was Detroit chance to mount a comeback like every other week. Only this time, Detroit went 3 and out with three straight incomplete passes. With 3:47 left, all Miami needed to do was drain the clock and they would walk away with a win. They started the drive with a 5 yard run, but could not do anything else after that and were forced to punt. With 3:13 left on the clock at their own 26, Detroit had one last chance at a comeback. Miami helped with a 5 yard penalty on the opening play of the drive. Detroit decided to counter that with a 10 yard penalty. Starting 1st and 15, Stafford hit Johnson for 6 yards, then he hit Tate for 17. He then connected with Johnson again for 18. Already in Miami territory, Stafford hooked up with Tate again for 6. He then hit Jeremy Ross for 5. Stafford then decided now was the time to get the win. He connected twice with Tate, once for 10 and once for 6 getting down to the Miami 11. He launched a nice pass to Johnson that was knocked away by Jordan of the Dolphins. He then threw a perfect pass to Riddick who caught it for the game winning touchdown. With Prater’s extra point to seal the game, the NFL’s best defense went out there and shut down any Dolphins comeback and ended the game with yet another Stafford 4th quarter comeback win. Detroit improved to 7-2 for the first time since 1993 and Miami fell to 5-4 before heading to Buffalo next week.