Remember that time Matthew Stafford faked the spike to beat Dallas?
For this week’s “Remember that time…” post, I look back to when Matthew Stafford needed no help at all from his O-line on a savvy game-winning touchdown.
My latest trip down bizarre/unusual Detroit Lions memory lane involves the young franchise QB expanding on a famous Dan Marino move for a classic regular season win.
Throughout his early years in Detroit, the national media almost universally referred to Matthew Stafford as a physically gifted ‘gunslinger’. The subtext here was that he relied too much on his talent (and Calvin Johnson‘s) and not his brains. As he matured into a more complete quarterback, Stafford is now getting the credit he deserves for just how smart of a player he’s become.
The instant classic at Ford Field vs the Cowboys midway through 2013 gave us a glimpse of this situational intelligence. Stafford thought one step ahead of all 21 other players on the field and improvised a memorable game-deciding play.
The Lead Up
“Stafford has done this before. Not sure how many times he’s had to do it with so many obstacles as he faces here.”–Fox Announcing Team, 1:02 remaining in 4th quarter.
There were plenty of offensive fireworks in this game. Calvin Johnson went absolutely ballistic against the Dallas secondary, but Dez Bryant had a few spectacular clutch catches of his own. An epidemic of Detroit turnovers meant that Dallas led 27-24 late in the 4th quarter with a chance to put things out of reach.
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Detroit failed to convert on a crucial 4th down deep in their own end. This gave the Cowboys the ball in scoring range, as well as in clock-killing mode. The best case scenario for the Lions seemed to be a field goal attempt for Dallas.
Assuming three run plays, I expected that Detroit might have about 20 seconds left after the kick. Dan Bailey did make his kick. However, an idiotic holding call against Dallas on 3rd down gave Detroit new life. Instead of 20 seconds, Stafford’s offense had a full minute to try to drive the length of the field. No timeouts left, but still.
From his own 20, Stafford led about as methodical and efficient of a drive as one can imagine. Pass down the middle to Calvin for 17 yards. A 40 yard gem to split two defensive backs and find Kris Durham along the sideline. Calvin again for 22 yards, falling just short of the goal line.
Whichever fans hadn’t left for the exits after the missed 4th down were in a full blown frenzy at this point. Stafford had plenty of time to get another two plays off, but first needed to hustle everyone up to the line to spike it.
Shell-shocked by the sudden turn of events, everyone else on the field went into a token stance. Stafford just needed to clock the ball and allow the stadium to regain its collective breath.
“…Clock it!! CLOCK IT! RIILLEY!!! RIIIIIILLLEYYY!!!!!”–Matthew Stafford, mic’d up for the game.
Stafford takes the snap…and decides to go off script with this one.
Stafford doesn’t spike it
Both the offensive and defensive lines were on their heels. The Dallas linebackers stood back about two steps too far. Instead of spiking the ball, Stafford took a leap into a small gap. He reached the ball and broke the plane of the goal line for the game winning touchdown.
The Cowboys defense quickly snapped back to attention. They pushed Stafford back, but the split second opening was all he needed. After landing, he ran around the edge from there to score again, just in case.
The remaining fans at Ford Field exploded. There was a much-longer-than-needed video review. I think the refs just weren’t sure what exactly had happened because Stafford obviously scored, twice even. The replay booth confirmed the TD, and the Lions win 31-30.
Matthew Stafford added another chapter to his growing legend. One which he hopefully still has many more chapters left to write.
I’d love to be able to say that Stafford’s endgame improv act against Dallas propelled to team forward to greater things. The Honolulu Blues should have taken advantage of an injury-weakened field for a runaway division title and home playoff win from there. They even won on the road at Chicago the following week. This put the Lions at 6-3 and alone in first place in the NFC North.
After that, they unfortunately collapsed even worse than the Silverdome didn’t. A turnover-plagued run of losses to mediocre teams scuttled the promising season. The Lions finished the year out of the playoffs, with a horribly underachieving 7-9 record.
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The “Fake Spike Game” stands out as the high point from an otherwise disappointing 2013 campaign.
You might also make the argument that Dallas got their karmic revenge for this game one year later. You know, when the referee faked that pass interference call.