Matthew Stafford's Lions trailed Seattle 24-21 with less than a minute left Sunday when Stafford delivered a perfect throw to a wide-open Calvin Johnson in the end zone. Johnson, who has yet to catch a TD from Stafford this season, let the ball bounce off his hands for an incompletion.
Rather than pack it in and settle for overtime, Stafford turned right around and hit Joique Bell on the next play to pick up a first down. He followed that up by drilling a TD pass into Titus Young on 3rd-and-goal, securing an absolutely essential 28-24 victory for the Lions.
What's wrong with Stafford? On Sunday, at least, nothing.
Stafford's numbers (or lack thereof) heading into Week 8 were staggering. He had not thrown more than one touchdown pass in any game on the season, he had not thrown a touchdown pass in the first quarter all year and the Lions did not have a first-half TD since a Week 1 win over St. Louis.
He erased all of those goose eggs before halftime against the Seahawks. On the final play of the first quarter, Stafford hit rookie Ryan Broyles for a touchdown. Stafford and Young then electrified the Ford Field crowd with a 46-yard touchdown hookup in the second -- on that play, Stafford stepped up to avoid pressure and unfurled a gorgeous deep ball to Young, who had crept behind two defenders.
Stafford finished the day with 34 completions on his 49 pass attempts, 352 yards and three passing touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown off a play-action bootleg. His lone blunder, an interception thrown into double coverage, was erased when teammate Ricardo Silva picked off Russell Wilson on the ensuing possession.
Making Sunday all the more impressive for Stafford was that it came against a Seattle defense that had, thus far, been solid against the pass and was third in the league in points allowed.
The Lions somehow managed to get their offense clicking anyway, despite last week's loss of Nate Burleson to a broken leg and another quiet game from Calvin Johnson. The Lions' top receiving option wound up with just three grabs for 46 yards, and he dropped at least three of Stafford's passes, including that one in the end zone.
Young picked up the slack with a 100-yard, two-touchdown performance, while oft-criticized tight end Brandon Pettigrew hauled in seven passes for 74 yards -- and, more importantly, didn't fumble. Broyles, Tony Scheffler, Bell and Mikel Leshoure all had at least three receptions as well.
Stafford may not have been playing as poorly as the record indicated. Last week, for example, in a 13-7 loss to Chicago, Stafford threw for 263 yards, but Detroit coughed up three fumbles and committed three turnovers in the red zone. The Lions now head to Jacksonville next week, so they'll have a legit shot to get back to .500 on the season, the first step toward rejoining the playoff race. Stafford showed Sunday that he's still more than capable of getting the job done, even if it was a difficult process.