Rookie Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t even have a sack in the 2014 regular season. But on the Detroit Lions’ last play of the NFC Wild Card game, Lawrence obtained a sack and fumble recovery which ended the Lions’ rally hopes and gave the Cowboys a 24-20 victory at AT&T Stadium.
The 34th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Lawrence came oh so close to being the goat instead of the hero. Earlier and on the same drive that he got his game saving sack and fumble recovery, Lawrence recovered a fumble on a sack of Lions (11-6) quarterback Matthew Stafford by fellow teammate Anthony Spencer. But Lawrence fumbled the ball after running a few inches forward, with the ball ending up in the hands of Lions left tackle Riley Reiff.
Lawrence’s (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and a fumble recovery) huge play gave the Cowboys (12-5) their first Playoff victory since January 9, 2010, when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14 in the NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs.
As for the contest, Lions receiver Golden Tate (6 catches for 89 yards and 1 touchdown) started off the scoring, when he caught a Matthew Stafford pass then raced past a falling Barry Church, then finally he turned on the speed even more to get past free safety J.J. Wilcox and a late arriving Orlando Scandrick to get into the end zone. That 51 yard play gave the Lions a 7-0 advantage with 11:22 left in the first quarter.
Then the Lions added to their lead when running back Reggie Bush took Stafford’s handoff, then he moved forward to the DAL 17 yard line where he made Scandrick look bad with some slick body and feet movements reminiscent of his days at Helix High School (La Mesa, California), with him finally speeding down the left sideline and into the end zone. That 18 yard scoring run gave the Lions a 14-0 lead with just 1:57 left in the first quarter.
Late in the second quarter and just when the Cowboys were in desperate need of some points, second-year receiver Terrance Williams (3 catches for 92 yards and 2 scores) took a short Tony Romo (19 of 31 for 293 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks) pass and raced through and past the entire Lions linebacker and defensive backfield, and into the end zone for a 76 yard score. That was the longest play of the Cowboys’ 2014 season and it put the score at 14-7.
Lions kicker Matt Prater barely made a tail end of the first half field goal, which sailed just inside the upper left upright of the goal posts. The Lions extended their lead to 17-7 with just three seconds left. He also scored the Lions next points as he connected from 37 yards out with 8:41 left in the third quarter. The Lions now had a 20-7 lead.
On the Cowboys first scoring drive since the latter part of the second quarter, it was keyed by running back DeMarco Murray (6 carries for 31 yards and 1 score) and a huge reception down the left sideline by wide receiver Dez Bryant for 43 yards. The drive was culminated by Murray’s own 1 yard touchdown run off the left side. It was 20-14 Detroit with 2:54 left in the third quarter. Murray finished the game with 19 carries for 75 yards and 1 score.
On a once promising drive that was aided by a personal foul on Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead on Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley that put the ball at the DET 18 yard line, the drive ended up withering away due to two consecutive sacks of Romo that netted 15 yards in loses. Dan Bailey came in on 4th and 25 and connected on a 51 yard field goal. It was 20-17 Detroit with 12:16 left in the game.
On 4th and 6 late in the fourth quarter, Romo with all day to throw, ended up completing his pass over the middle to tight end Jason Witten for 21 yards to the DET 21 where was brought down by Lions safeties James Ihedigbo and Asa Abdul-Quddus. That huge reception by Witten (5 catches for 63 yards) set up a back of the end zone 8 yard touchdown reception by Williams from Romo. That Williams touchdown reception gave Dallas their first lead of the game at 24-20 with 2:32 left in the contest.
On the Lions’ last offensive drive of the game, it was players like tight end Eric Ebron (2 catches for 14 yards) and running back Theo Riddick—–who had a big 15 yard reception down the left sideline to the DAL 49 yard line—–who really helped this drive’s cause. But the drive died a cruel death, when Lawrence made his aforementioned game-saving play.
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