ARLINGTON, Texas – I know. I know.
Your best offense isn’t supposed to be the other team’s quarterback. Your wake-up call is not supposed to be “Twenty-four points down! Let’s rock!” Your star player isn’t supposed to sit on the sideline for 35 minutes, long enough to watch a sitcom, which is what the Lions’ offense had been to that point.
Your defense should not make up for allowing touchdowns by scoring touchdowns of its own. You’re not supposed to score points when you keep drawing penalty flags. You can’t count on three interceptions in 12 Tony Romo passes. Your first sack is not supposed to come with 35 seconds left – although you will surely take it.
And Detroit will take this – an amazing win and a 4-0 start. I know it’s not conventional. Jim Schwartz knows. The grandma who lives next door to you knows.
“It’s crazy,” Matthew Stafford said after the Lions outscored Dallas, 31-3, to complete a comeback that seemed so distant, it required a passport. “You just gotta keep playing.”
Keep playing? How about start playing? The first half featured a Lions defense that hit Romo exactly, let me count these up – once – and a secondary whose sole purpose was apparently to say “nice catch” to Dallas receivers.
The offense was stagnant. Bad running. Bad passing. Schwartz would later say the Lions had no “juice.”
Unless it was prune.
The comeback Cats
And then … something happened. The way something happened last week against Minnesota. The way things are suddenly happening every week for this team, things that make you rub your eyes and say, “Wait. Did I fall asleep and wake up on the New York Jets?”
On Sunday it was an interception by linebacker Bobby Carpenter, a former Cowboy and good friend of Romo’s (well, until Sunday) who raced in for a 34-yard touchdown.
On the next Dallas series, Chris Houston – who’d had an awful day to that point – hooked a Romo pass one-handed, spun and raced down the sideline 56 yards for a second straight Lions TD.
I’m not sure if he turned to the offense and said, “See how it’s done?” But something kicked in. When Stafford and company finally returned to the field (and they really were off it for 35 minutes, almost long enough to forget how they’d been playing), they came out burning. Stafford dropped back, had plenty of time, and said he saw Calvin Johnson in the end zone putting his finger up.
“That’s a good enough sign for me,” he said.
Never mind that Johnson might have been scratching his forehead or bidding on art in the halls of Cowboys Stadium. The only sight you really need to throw to Johnson is the 81 on his jersey. Despite two defenders and a third closing, Calvin went up and came down with a touchdown.
And suddenly, 27-3 had become 30-24.
Winning ways in Motown
At that point, long-suffering Lions fans stopped predicting doom, people viewing the Tigers switched the channel, and a few angels in heaven nudged each other and said, “You watching this?”
The Lions’ defense twice forced three-and-outs. The offense stop-started a drive that featured four penalties and still produced a field goal. Stephen Tulloch then played pat-a-cake with another Romo pass, intercepted it, and a winning drive was in the cards.
It took seven plays, and ended the way most good drives do for the Lions – with Johnson leaping for a ball and coming down to see a ref with his hands up. Lions 34, Dallas 30.
I know. I know.
“I’m just glad that the third-best receiver on their team is on our team,” Schwartz said, referencing a crack about Johnson made by the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, one of the Ryan brothers, the one who looks like Santa’s biker brother.
But hey, who cares what anyone says when you’re winning, right?
“At some point you got to pull it together,” Carpenter said when asked about being down so long in this game. He might as well be talking about the Lions franchise and even our town. Detroit is presently great in baseball and suddenly perfect in football.
Or as Dominic Raiola said, “It’s the city to be in right now.”
Tony Romo is certainly welcome.
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.