-by Rob Doster
Last week in this space, I bragged about how the Buffalo Bills had posted consecutive comebacks of 18 points or more. Well, the Detroit Lions make the Bills look like frontrunners. After yesterday’s stunning comeback from a 27–3 deficit against the Cowboys, coupled with their erasure of a 20–0 deficit against Minnesota the week before, the Lions are now the first team in history to win consecutive games in which they trailed by 20 points or more both times. Both games were on the road, where the Lions are 3–0 this season and have now won their last five dating back to December 2010. They also own the NFL's longest regular season winning streak at eight games.
Team of destiny, anyone?
At the season’s quarter pole, the Lions are the story. And now that the Comeback Kids have proved to themselves that they’re never out of a game, there’s no ceiling to what they can accomplish.
Of course, the Lions have had some help to get to 4–0, a record matched only by their division rival Packers. First of all, Rob Ryan proved that he shares the family gene for foot-in-mouth disease, calling out Lions receiver Calvin Johnson prior to the game in saying that, “We work against better receivers in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (in practice). Duly aroused, Johnson had two fourth-quarter touchdown catches to complete Detroit’s comeback, giving Lions coach Jim Schwartz the opening for this classic dig:
“I’m glad the third-best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team.”
Then there’s poor Tony Romo, whose bipolar season has inspired enough mood swings to make Cowboy Nation wonder if it’s collectively entered menopause. Brilliant in helping the ’Boys build that 27–3 lead, Romo inexplicably melted down in the second half, throwing third-quarter pick-sixes to Bobby Carpenter and Chris Houston in an eight-play span to reduce Dallas’ lead to 27–17 and give the Lions their opening.
Matthew Stafford — finally healthy — and Johnson were happy to take advantage. On the winning touchdown pass, Johnson faced single coverage from Terence Newman, and Johnson against anybody in single coverage is a mismatch. Of course, triple coverage didn’t work either — Johnson’s first touchdown had come amid three Cowboys defenders.
Stafford sounded a little sheepish after the second straight historic comeback. “Any time you come back from 20-something, you’re doing some kind of stealing,” he said.
No need to apologize, Detroit. Karmic justice owes you and your decaying shell of a once-proud city a lot of good fortune.
“The way the guys have banded together, it’s something I haven’t seen," receiver Nate Burleson said. "We’re learning how to win.” And teaching the league a lesson in perseverance in the process.
• Cam Newton has now thrown for 1,386 yards in four games for the Panthers. That projects to 5,544 yards for a full season, which would shatter Dan Marino’s NFL record. The kid’s a phenom, and as long as his Panthers remain unable to keep opponents out of the end zone, Newton will keep throwing. We could be watching the greatest rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history.
• Speaking of the Panthers’ D, or lack thereof, Carolina neutralized Jay Cutler, but it didn’t matter. Chicago’s Matt Forte proved himself to be the linchpin of the Bears offense, rushing for 205 yards and a touchdown in Chicago’s 34–29 win.
• Aaron Rodgers is posting video game numbers for the 4–0 Packers. After Sunday’s 49–23 win over the Broncos, Rodgers now has 1,325 passing yards and has accounted for 14 touchdowns in four games, with a passer rating of 124.6. He’s the best player in football right now.
• Hot seat watch: Leslie Frazier, call your agent. Frazier’s Vikings are 0–4 for the first time since 2002, squandering a lead for the fourth time in four games in losing to the Chiefs. “We’ve got to re-evaluate everything,” Frazier said, obviously cognizant that he’s currently being re-evaluated. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ Todd Haley bought himself a little time. Just a little.
• Dream Team Watch: The Eagles are 1–3 and starting to panic. They squandered a 20-point lead at home to lose to the 49ers 24–23 as rookie kicker missed two fourth-quarter chip shots, either of which would have clinched a victory. “If we don’t win, we’re just a bunch of talented people who haven’t done anything, and there’s a lot of teams like that,” said Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins in a moment of clarity brought on by a third disheartening loss in a row.
• New England's Wes Welker is posting insane numbers. He’s averaging 10 catches per game through four games, with 616 yards and five touchdowns. He caught more than half of Tom Brady’s 16 completions in yesterday’s 31–19 win over Oakland.
• Many happy returns in Baltimore’s 34–17 win over the Jets. In a game with only one offensive touchdown, the teams combined for five return touchdowns, three of them courtesy of the Ravens defense, which notched two fumble return TDs and a pick six. The Jets countered with a kickoff return and a pick-six of their own, but those were rare bright spots on a night of ineptitude. Maybe Joe Namath has a point. The Jets looked unprepared.