Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford scored the game-winning touchdown against the Cowboys on Sunday on a play the Lions hadn’t practiced and that none of his teammates or coaches knew he was going to run.
Stafford told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that he planned to get the offense set and spike the ball after Calvin Johnson was tackled inbounds at the 1-yard line. As Stafford sprinted toward the line while gesturing to his teammates to get into place, he was yelling at them that he was going to spike the ball, and that wasn’t an attempt to trick the Cowboys. That was what he really planned to do.
But in the split-second before Lions center Dominic Raiola snapped him the ball, Stafford noticed that the Cowboys’ defensive linemen weren’t getting down into their stances. That made Stafford think if he just lunged forward, he could stick the ball over the goal line before the Cowboys realized it had happened.
“So I’m on the line, and everyone in the stadium thinks I’m spiking it, and that was the plan,’’ Stafford said. “The other 10 guys [on offense] thought I was too. I thought I was—but then I saw a couple of their guys, almost standing up, and I just had this thought: Maybe I could make it by sneaking, or just putting the ball over the line. Maybe that was our best chance. . . . You just feel it. Hard to explain. You just go to the line and you feel it sometimes, and I just felt: Our best chance is me taking the ball and diving it over. I mean, all we were was three inches from the end zone.”
The Lions were out of timeouts, so if the Cowboys’ defense had been more prepared than Stafford thought, and he had been tackled short of the end zone, Detroit might not have had time to run another play. Stafford said he took the chance knowing that he’d be the goat if he didn’t get into the end zone.
“Oh, no question,’’ he said. “That was it. That would have been the last play of the game; we weren’t getting another one off. That runs through your mind. You think, ‘Boy, I’ll get a minus on the play sheet when we go over this.’”
Instead of a minus on the play sheet, Stafford made one of the best plays of the season.