On their last drive, Stafford threw a 22-yard pass to Johnson to set up the winning score. The quarterback caught at least some Cowboys by surprise, including linebacker Sean Lee, who appeared to expect him to spike the ball to stop the clock.
“He kind of caught us off-guard,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher acknowledged.
Dallas (4-4) seemed to set itself up to win three straight for the first time this year to build a bigger lead atop the NFC East when Tony Romo threw his second touchdown — and third of the game — to Dez Bryant with 6:45 left to take 27-17 lead.
The Cowboys, though, allowed Reggie Bush to cap an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD with 3:33 left. They also had to settle for Dan Bailey’s third field goal with 1:02 left after Tyron Smith was flagged for holding on third down, a mistake that stopped the clock even though Detroit declined the penalty.
“If we don’t get called for a penalty, I think they probably had 20 seconds or so left,” Romo said.
With no timeouts, the Lions went from their 20 to the Cowboys end zone thanks in large part to a 17-yard pass to Johnson, a 40-yard connection with Kris Durham and Johnson’s 14th reception that gave them the ball at the Dallas 1.
Instead of spiking the ball, Stafford took the snap and leaped with his arms extended to beat the team he rooted for growing up in Highland Park, Texas.
“I was just as fooled as the defense was,” Lions offensive guard Larry Warford said.
Stafford was 33 of 48 for 488 yards —his second-highest total — with a 2-yard TD pass to Johnson in the first quarter and two interceptions. Reggie Bush had 92 yards rushing and a score.
Romo was 14 of 30, failing to complete half his passes for the first time since 2009, for 206 yards without a turnover.