There was a time Matthew Stafford did this on a weekly basis, where the man became synonymous with the fourth-quarter comeback. It hadn’t happened as much the past three seasons, as the Detroit Lions had become known for giving up leads and games instead of coming from behind to win one.
Then Stafford got the ball back with 64 seconds left, no timeouts, and 75 yards to go. And Stafford became the Stafford he had been for a lot of the mid-2000s, slicing through the Atlanta defense with big play after big play, carrying Detroit on his shoulder pads to a scramble and buy time to find T.J. Hockenson with an 11-yard touchdown with no time left.
It was the 30th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, tying him for eighth all-time with the quarterback he beat, Matt Ryan, and the 36th game-winning drive of his career, according to Pro Football Reference.
It always seems to come down to this with the Lions and the Falcons. From Prater getting a re-do on a field goal in London in 2014 for a win to the Falcons winning with a 10-second run-off in 2017. This one, complete with a booth challenge upholding a Kenny Golladay catch and a longer extra point because a Danny Amendola unsportsmanlike penalty on the touchdown, might have made it the most wild of all.
Buy/sell on a breakout performance: You can buy (tepidly) on Marvin Jones’ first really strong game of 2020. Jones has had these stretches throughout his career where his play dips for three or four games and then he puts up a good stat-line. Sunday against the Falcons was a good line with five catches for 80 yards. Typically, this starts a run of three or four good games in a row for him, so it’ll be something to watch, especially since offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated they wanted to find ways to get Jones more involved.
Promising trend: Romeo Okwara has been a much-needed spark to Detroit’s otherwise rough pass rush. Over the past three games, he’s been the Lions’ most consistent pass rusher and has won a quarter of his pass rushes according to ESPN Stats & Information against the Saints and Jaguars entering Sunday. Then he had two sacks and a forced fumble against the Falcons. He’s been the type of individual rusher Detroit has needed to flash to give them something in an otherwise poor pass rush.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Lions have gotten too predictable with Adrian Peterson. The solution here is difficult to figure out, but one thing to look at is stopping back-to-back runs with Peterson on first-and-second downs. Detroit did this (at least) three times and on each run; Peterson was less effective on the second-down run than the first-down one. While they can’t have Swift playing play-in, play-out, how Detroit is using Peterson has started to become more predictable. Peterson’s yards per carry have dwindled by the week, too, including rushing for under four yards per carry in each of the past four games.
QB Breakdown: Stafford didn’t find the end zone until the game’s final play, but he was smart and efficient throughout the day, completing 25 of 36 passes for 340 yards and a score. He’s made good reads with very few poor decisions, including taking one-on-one chances with his top receiver, Golladay, who had six catches for 114 yards. He also showed his own awareness by getting a snap off with Atlanta having 12 men on the field in the fourth quarter, getting Detroit a first down. It’s a move only a veteran quarterback will make.