Johnson caught 14 passes for 329 yards, but like almost everyone else at Ford Field, he was a mere bystander when teammate Matthew Stafford lunged for a 1-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left to give the Lions a 31-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
''Our team has been resilient through a lot of things and we needed to be today,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. ''We certainly didn't make it easy on ourselves.''
Detroit's final drive was aided by a Dallas penalty. The Cowboys had the ball and were trying to run down the clock when they were called for holding. Although the Lions declined the penalty, bringing up fourth down, the clock stopped because of the flag with just over a minute remaining.
Dallas kicked a field goal to take a six-point lead, but the Lions drove 80 yards with no timeouts left.
''Even our fans didn't think we could pull this one out,'' Johnson said. ''They were leaving, but we knew we could do it.''
Stafford caught seemingly everyone off guard when he scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak. It looked like he was ready to spike the ball and set up another play.
''I was just as fooled as the defense was,'' Lions offensive guard Larry Warford said.
Johnson nearly set an NFL record, falling just short of Flipper Anderson's mark of 336 yards receiving in a 1989 game. Anderson, who played for the Los Angeles Rams, needed overtime to reach that total.
Johnson's spectacular day became even more meaningful when the Lions won.
Here are five reasons Detroit came away with a victory in this down-to-the-wire thriller:
CALVIN'S CATCHES: Johnson was all but unstoppable from start to finish. His 87-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter set up the game's first touchdown, which he caught himself on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
He later added a 54-yard catch in the fourth quarter, and his 22-yard catch on the final drive gave the Lions the ball at the 1 before Stafford's touchdown.
Johnson tied Hall of Famer Lance Alworth's career record with his fifth 200-yard receiving game.
STAFFORD'S POISE: Johnson's staggering numbers made this game memorable, but Stafford's final play shouldn't be overlooked.
The Lions were out of timeouts, so if Stafford had been stopped, they would have been in a rush to line up again and spike the ball before the clock ran out. It was a reasonably risky decision by the Detroit quarterback, but he took advantage of an unsettled situation to score the decisive touchdown.
Stafford threw for 488 yards and overcame two interceptions.
COSTLY MISTAKE: The Cowboys had the game just about wrapped up, leading 27-24 with just over a minute left. The Lions were out of timeouts when Dallas' Phillip Tanner ran for a 9-yard gain on third-and-14.
The clock would have kept running, but offensive lineman Tyron Smith was called for holding. Detroit declined the penalty, setting up fourth down, but the clock was stopped at 1:07.
Dan Bailey's third field goal of the day put the Cowboys ahead 30-24, but the Lions still had about a minute to do something.
''If we don't get called for a penalty, I think they probably had 20 or so seconds left,'' quarterback Tony Romo said.
BRYANT OVERSHADOWED: It was an eventful day for Dallas receiver Dez Bryant, who caught two touchdown passes and was also seen screaming at teammates on the sideline.
Of course, his performance was nothing compared to Johnson's. Bryant and Romo could never establish a consistent connection in this one.
''Dez is a very passionate player, very competitive player,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. ''He gets a lot of attention from the opposing defenses, and he just wanted the football, and we want guys that want the football.''
OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Dallas did very little on offense until the fourth quarter. The Cowboys almost won thanks to four Detroit turnovers, but they were outgained 623-268 and allowed the Lions to control the ball for 35:11.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Detroit Lions
- Dallas Cowboys
- Calvin Johnson
- Matthew Stafford