In Dallas, the Cowboys got a grind it out victory over the Lions to move onto the divisional round of the playoffs to face the Packers. Dallas was down nearly the entire game and did not take the lead until a touchdown pass to Terrence Williams gave them the 24-20 lead. The offense was not as explosive as it has been at times this season, but they showed they could make plays when it mattered most.
For the first time since the 2009 season the Cowboys hosted a playoff game and they came in playing very well winning four straight games to claim the NFC East title. In that four game winning streak to end the season Dallas put up points at will scoring 38 or more in each game. During the regular season home field advantage had not been too advantageous for the Cowboys losing all four games they lost all season at Cowboys Stadium, which does no bode well for them playing this one at home.
Even though the Lions lost their last regular season game to the Packers to fall to the sixth seed in the NFC, they also came into this matchup playing well winning 4 of their last five. The story of this season for Detroit has been the strength of their defense finishing the regular season as the second rated overall defense and the best against the run. The stout defense gave up 20 points or less in each of the last five games to end the season.
In front of their recently postseason starved fans the Cowboys opened the game with a very shaky drive, with the Lions doing a good job of stuffing the run. After forcing a three and out on defense the Lions offense came out equally ready to play moving the ball very well with Joique Bell on their first drive. Matthew Stafford avoided pressure very well to find Golden Tate on a post route and Tate wove his way through the Dallas secondary to open the scoring on a 51-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys offensive struggles continued through the first quarter as the Lions defense put a lot of pressure on Tony Romo sacking him and getting to him on nearly every drop back.
A very good punt by the Cowboys pinned the Lions inside their own one-yard line and Dallas does well on defense to hold them but keep the drive alive by getting a running into the kicker on a punt. From then on Detroit moved the ball extremely well to finish off a 99-yard drive with a Reggie Bush run that was set up by the good running his backfield partner Joique Bell.
After falling to an early 14-point deficit the Cowboys were able to get a little going on offense but still could not muster any points, as the Lions defense continued to get really good pressure on Romo. Near the end of the first half Dallas was finally able to break through a get on the scoreboard with a big 76-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Williams. A field goal right before half sent Detroit into the locker room for halftime with a 17-7 lead.
Coming out of halftime the Cowboys got a huge turnover when Stafford’s pass got tipped at the line of scrimmage and was intercepted at the Detroit 19-yard line. After getting inside the 10-yard line the Cowboys were not able to finish the drive when the Lions got a sack on 3rd and goal. The usually very reliable Dan Bailey missed a chip shot field goal and the Cowboys were not able to get any points from a huge turnover.
Throughout the third quarter the Dallas defense really picked up the intensity only allowing Detroit a field goal, and also began to find more success on the offensive side. Midway through the third quarter Dez Bryant only had one target but on his second he made the Lions pay as he caught a short pass and took it 43 yards into inside the Detroit 10. After a touchdown run was called back for holding the Lions defense held up and forced a fourth and short, but Dallas punched it in and cut the lead to 20-14.
The Cowboys intensity on offense really began to pick up near the end of the third quarter and into the fourth. Another good Dallas drive ended in a field goal when Suh got two huge sacks to force the Cowboys out of the red zone. With a 20-17 lead the Lions began to try to dwindle some clock and get some points to close out a victory. On a third and short at around midfield a pass meant for Brandon Pettigrew fell incomplete and pass interference was called. For whatever reason the flag that would have given Detroit a crucial first down was picked up and no foul was given forcing the Lions to punt. This would prove to be the turning point in the game because Detroit would only get the ball back with around 90 seconds left and having given away the lead.
The Cowboys had decent field position on their last drive of the game and marched the ball down the field. Key penalties by the Lions continued to keep the drive alive for the Cowboys on crucial third down plays and the drive ended with a passing touchdown to Terrence Williams.
Down by four with under two minutes left the Lions had to move quickly, but they could not get a rhythm on the drive when they needed it most. A wild play happened on their last drive when the Cowboys pass rush got to Stafford forcing him to fumble and Dallas picked it up only to fumble themselves on the very same play giving it right back to Detroit. The game ended on a fourth and three for Detroit when Stafford was again sacked and fumble but this time the Cowboys recovered and held on to win it 24-20.
Even though the loss will hurt, the Lions should be proud of the effort they showed especially on defense to slow down the potent Cowboys attack. Dallas will now move on to face the Packers in Green Bay in what will be a matchup of two of the most historically successful NFL franchises. On defense they will have to be very wary of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers weapons, but using the momentum from this victory over the Lions the Cowboys will be very confident going in.
The matchup against the Packers will likely be a high scoring one with two of the best offenses in the NFL meeting. Dallas should be able to move the ball a little easier against the Green Bay defense considering they have been far less effective than the Lions throughout the season. For Green Bay they will be hoping to exploit a Cowboy secondary that has not been great through the season, but they did play well against Calvin Johnson and the Lions.
A win in their return to playoff was huge for the Dallas Cowboys as they came back to defeat the Detroit Lions 24-20. Tony Romo and the offense showed that even though they were stifled for most of the game they could come up with big plays at crucial times. The defense was not amazing but had some opportunistic plays and will build on their good second half performance going into Green Bay.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Billy Bob Bain – Creativecommons Flickr License