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October 29, 2013

Stafford's game-winning score shouldn't have surprised Cowboys

With time winding down and the Lions marching down the field late in the fourth quarter, Matthew Stafford signaled for his linemen to get up to the line of scrimmage so he could spike the ball. The Lions were in the midst of a potential game-winning drive and had just gotten the ball inside the Cowboys' 1.

Everybody, including Stafford’s offensive teammates, thought the quarterback would spike the ball to stop the clock. But Stafford saw a few of the Cowboys’ defensive players almost standing up, and made a split-second decision –- he would attempt to score on a QB sneak.

And it worked to perfection. Stafford got in and the Lions went on to a 31-30 victory, scoring 24 fourth-quarter points.

It left the Cowboys stunned.

“He made a very smart play there,” Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher said. “He’s a good quarterback. He made the play when it presented itself. He kind of caught us off guard, but we did [defended] it the best we could.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday that is a situation his team has to handle better, from the coaching staff to the players.

“Everyone has to understand the possibility in that situation,” Garrett said. “There was an anticipation in some way, shape or form that they were going to spike the ball in that deal, but it’s not for us to decide that they’re going to do that. We have to decide to play football, get in stances, defend them if they want to run the ball.

“The quarterback sneak was one logical thing they could do there if they didn’t want to spike it. That’s just a great lesson for everybody and there’s a level of readiness you have to have. In some ways you think you’re ready for that kind of situation, but you have to be down. You have to be ready and we weren’t and we have to do a better job of that in that situation.”

On the play before, Stafford connected on a long pass play with Calvin Johnson, who was stopped just short of the goal line. Garrett brushed off any notion that the defensive players might have felt Johnson had scored on that play, which left them more vulnerable to Stafford’s sneak.

“It’s not our job to officiate, it’s our job to play,” Garrett said. “So you have to be ready to play certainly in a situation like that when they have no timeouts and we knew they had no timeouts and had to go the length of the field with no timeouts.”

-- Drew Davison

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