Stafford leads Lions to dramatic last-second win

November 23, 2009 by Tom Ferda 

Previously published in Sports Climax Magazine – November 2009

DETROIT – The Detroit Lions may have found the leader they have been searching for over the past few decades and nfl filesthat leader may have accomplished a near-impossible feat; winning over the Detroit media.

On his home field in a game against the Cleveland Browns, Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford had been battling all afternoon to lead his team back from a 24-3 deficit and it ended in dramatic fashion.

Down 37-31 Stafford had no timeouts remaining, needed to get into the end zone from the Cleveland 32 and had only :08 seconds to do it. What happened over the next several minutes may become Stafford’s defining moment.

Stafford took the snap and scrambled Favre-style, avoiding an aggressive rush while trying to find an open receiver. He avoided one rusher, then another as the clock ticked to :00. Stafford saw the Browns’ 305-pound lineman C.J. Mosley barreling in at him but stood tall, planted his feet and threw the desperation pass.

As the ball sailed towards the end zone, Mosley crushed Stafford into the Ford Field turf. The rookie quarterback laid flat on the turf, grimacing in pain with an apparent shoulder injury but the Hail Mary pass was answered in the form of yellow hankies blanketing the end zone.

Pass interference on the defense.

While Stafford was helped to the sidelines where team doctors attempted to look at the injury, Cleveland decided to call time out to set up their defense as Lions back-up quarterback Daunte Culpepper was stepping up to the line to take the game’s final snap.

“I heard time-out over the loudspeaker and knew that was probably my only chance of getting back in,” Stafford said. “It was my left shoulder. Don’t really need it to throw.”

The doctors attempted to keep Stafford down to examine and determine the type of injury but Stafford refused to stay down. When he told the doctors to help him up, they refused until he demanded.

“Once one of them helped me up,” Stafford said, “they weren’t going to stop me.”

Lions coach Jim Schwartz must have had a tremendous amount of information swirling through his head. His back-up quarterback was in the huddle on the field, his starter with an obvious injury demanding on returning for the final play, his team needing a touchdown to win, no timeouts remaining.

Ignoring the pain, Stafford found the energy to push his way back onto the field, took the final snap and thread a bullet to tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a touchdown, his record 5th of the game and a 38-37 victory. Stafford also finished with a career-high 422 passing yards.

See dramatic comeback video on NFL.com here.

Schwartz was nearly lost for words during some of the post-game. “[Stafford] popped up, and all the team doctors said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.’ I said, ‘What does he have?’ They said, ‘We don’t even know.’

Stafford, his shoulder wrapped in ice, elaborated more during post game. “I was in some good pain, but the play goes on. It didn’t feel good, but I didn’t care. It was one play. I knew I didn’t have to play too much, just one snap, and try to throw a TD.”

“I’ve never been a part of [winning with no time on the clock],” said Stafford. “I’ve been a part of some close ones at the end, obviously, but that was wild.”

Wild? Yes.

True courage? Yes.

Defining moment? Time will tell and more importantly, the Detroit Lions may have finally found their leader.

Copyright ©2010 Tom Ferda

Contact Tom via email: tom@tomferda.com