With the summer winding down and football just around the corner, our countdown of last season's best games has now wrapped up as well. As the saying goes, in this instance, the best was definitely saved for last. 2011's top game will be fondly remembered around Detroit for years and agonized over in Dallas. As positional previews, the preseason and 2012 excitement begins, we bid a fond farewell to last year's great moments with the best.
After the Detroit Lions roared to a 3-0 start with a fantastic rally against the Minnesota Vikings, they stayed on the road to visit the Dallas Cowboys, a team always seemingly teetering on the brink of greatness or total collapse. Surprisingly, It was the Lions who would fire a fast salvo through the Cowboys' 2011 season and start their swoon early.
Quickly, the game started to remind Lions' rooters of the previous week's in Minnesota. Dallas wasted no time running out to a fast 14-0 lead on touchdown passes from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. Also like the week before, Detroit's offense was sputtering early only managing a single field goal, and two Dan Bailey field goals pushed the Cowboys' halftime lead to 20-3. Again, things had to be looking hopeless despite the previous week's flash of brilliance.
It only got worse. Romo led a drive and fired a touchdown to Jason Witten immediately after coming out of the locker room, extending the Dallas lead to 27-3. The Cowboys were driving again, when Romo made the game changing mistake. On a misread, he fired a pass that was intercepted by Bobby Carpenter, who rumbled into the end zone. The next drive, Chris Houston stepped in front of Romo's telegraphed pass and scored a 56 yard touchdown of his own. Instantly, the Lions had given themselves a chance heading into the fourth quarter.
From that point on, it was all Detroit as the defense stiffened and Dallas couldn't put the Lions away with any late offense. Calvin Johnson transformed into Megatron once again, hauling in another highlight catch in the end zone while out jumping three Cowboy defenders, which cut the Dallas lead to a tenuous 30-24. Hanson added a 51 yard field goal to slice the deficit to three. Then, Romo fired yet another careless pass and was picked off by Stephen Tulloch. The Lions drove to the goal line, threw a fade to Johnson, and used that touchdown to complete yet another furious road rally.
Nearly every football fan had to be in disbelief. The Lions, a team once known for being the NFL's best road kill, had stunned two teams away from home after falling way behind by seemingly impossible margins. This particular defeat was one of the worst home losses in Dallas's storied history, and it was authored by Detroit, suddenly a team to take seriously. Lions fans themselves couldn't believe their eyes. This was their team playing hard, refusing to give up and coming back to win. Their group was 4-0 on the young season and making waves nationally. Talk about dramatically flipping the script. Forget a 180, this was a full football 360.
As big moments go, this stunning Sunday in Dallas ranks at the top for the Lions. They could hold their heads high coming home for a Monday Night date with the Chicago Bears with a city on the verge of jubilation. It was surreal, amazing and impossible.
Those are three words that, ironically enough, described the 2011 Lions' season as a whole.
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