The Detroit Lions defeated the Atlanta Falcons in stunning fashion today 22-21 in London England. The Lions started today’s game off real sloppy, allowing Matt Ryan to complete nearly every pass in route to an opening drive touchdown screen pass to Devonta Freeman. Detroit proceeded to go three and out, punting the ball back to Atlanta. The Falcons took advantage, driving down the field and capping it off with a 1 yard touchdown pass to tight end Bear Pascoe. For a Detroit defense that had not allowed any first quarter points since playing against Green Bay in week 3, to let go of 14 was not a good start. The defense looked porous, and Matt Ryan was completing everything. The Lions continued to fail at sustaining drives, and Atlanta capped the half off with another touchdown, this time a 1 yard run by Steven Jackson. With Detroit down 21-0 and both the offense and the defense looking inept, the game was getting out of hand. Add to that Detroit losing defensive tackle Nick Fairley to an apparent knee injury, their hopes of playing well on the defensive line were looking shaky.
Detroit started the second half with the ball, which was good considering they were without CJ Mosely and Nick Fairley at defensive tackle. The offense moved the ball well on the opening drive, chewing up clock and capping it off with a 22 yard Matt Prater field goal. While the Lions needed the touchdown desperately, they took the point to cut the lead to 21-3. Detroit’s defense, coming off an inspiring speech by defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, was stout, holding Atlanta and forcing a punt. After a bad punt by Matt Bosher, the Lions were starting at the Atlanta 44 desperately needing points. Stafford misfired on first down, a holding penalty moved them back 10 more on second down, then a 15 yard penalty moved them back even further, leaving Detroit at their own 31 with 2nd and 35. Seeming like an impossible feat to overcome, Stafford hit Theo Riddick for 10 yards. On 3rd and 25, hoping for a defensive holding or pass interference penalty, Stafford went deep and hit Golden Tate for a 59 yard touchdown. The Lions were now down 21-10.
Atlanta once again appeared to be on the move, getting to their own 45 yard line before Matt Ryan threw an ill advised pass right to Cassius Vaughn who returned the interception 45 yards to the Atlanta 7. With Detroit desperate for a touchdown, Detroit got no production from two run plays and an incomplete pass, forcing a 20 yard Prater field goal. He lifted the Lions to 21-13 deficit. With the game manageable for Detroit, The Lions dialed up the pressure on Matt Ryan, eventually forcing the Falcons to punt after a Ezekiel Ansah sack strip.
Detroit drove the ball from their own 31 with the help of Stafford’s arm. He hit Tate for 9 yards, Bell for 11 yards, Corey Fuller for 13, and Theo Riddick for 6. Down to Atlanta’s 16 with a first down, Stafford hit Joique Bell on a screen pass for 11 yards, then he hit Riddick for a 5 yard touchdown. The Lions tried for two to tie the game but missed the 2 point pass to Tate, who was held by the Atlanta defender. With just under 4 minutes to go, Atlanta took the ball to the ground with bruiser Steven Jackson. On third and 5 with Detroit desperate to get the ball back, Ryan hit Harry Douglas on a ridiculous catch for 13 yards for the first down. With Detroit using up its timeouts to preserve clock, Ryan hit Julio Jones on a screen for 22 yards to get them into Detroit territory, draining the clock and leaving Detroit with one timeout. After the 2 minute warning, Detroit used its last timeout to stop the clock after a Jackson run. With Atlanta seemingly in control of the game and a 2 point lead, they ran the ball again, but got flagged for holding, stopping the clock for Detroit. On 3rd and 10, needing to simply drain more clock, Atlanta opted for a screen to Jones again. Jones dropped the pass, stopping the clock again and leaving Atlanta with a 4th down. Detroit got the ball back with 1:38 left, needing only a field goal to win.
With London fans already in love with the kicking aspect of the game of American football, the game seemed to be trending in that direction. Detroit started at its own 7, and Stafford hit Golden Tate for 32 yards, getting a major chunk of the needed yardage to get into Prater’s range. Stafford then hit Riddick for 20 yards, getting them into Atlanta territory with 49 seconds left. Stafford then hit Jeremy Ross for 10 more yards getting down to Atlanta’s 31. With Joique Bell gaining one yard on consecutive runs, Detroit would have the ball at the Atlanta 29, but the Falcons got flagged for defensive holding. It gave Detroit 5 more yards and a first down. With the ball at the Atlanta 24, Stafford took a knee, drained the clock to 4 seconds, and spiked the ball to stop the clock. Prater was up for a 43 yard field goal to win the game. The snap was poor and the kick sailed wide right, but it did not matter, there were whistles and flags before the snap. Detroit did not get the snap off before time expired, getting a delay of game penalty. Normally, that discourages coaches but in this instance, it nullified a missed field goal and gave Prater one more shot, still easily in his range. He nailed the 48 yarder with no time on the clock to complete Matthew Stafford‘s 21 point comeback, giving the Lions a 22-21 victory in London. The 85,000 fans loved the game’s excitement, and naturally, loved the game ending on the kicker’s foot. In consecutive weeks against top 10 offenses, the Detroit Lions came from behind to win the game by one point. The Lions now go into the bye week 6-2, and first in the division.