Lions in first place after another improbable win
DETROIT (AP) That familiar refrain ''Same Old Lions'' has been quieted lately.
Detroit's star-crossed NFL franchise is now alone in first place in the NFC North thanks to a pair of improbable victories the last two weekends.
Sunday's win in London over the Atlanta Falcons was particularly remarkable. The Lions prevailed 22-21 on a last-second field goal by Matt Prater - after a miss by Prater was nullified by a delay-of-game penalty against Detroit.
''We keep finding ways,'' wide receiver Golden Tate said.
Two weeks ago, the Lions trailed by 13 late in the fourth quarter against New Orleans before scoring two touchdowns in the final 3:38 to win. That comeback was aided by an interception - and a fourth-down penalty by the Saints that gave Detroit another chance to score the winning touchdown.
On Sunday, the Falcons led 21-0 at halftime, and with the score 21-19, Atlanta had a chance to run down most of the remaining time at the end of the game. But a holding penalty on the Falcons stopped the clock, then a dropped pass by Julio Jones forced Atlanta to punt with 1:38 to go.
The Lions drove into position for a field goal, which Prater missed. But Detroit got a reprieve and Prater made his next attempt from 48 yards as time expired.
According to advancedfootballanalytics.com, the Lions had less than a 5 percent chance to win during the fourth quarter against both New Orleans and Atlanta.
''They don't quit. They're not deterred. They play with poise,'' Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ''Down the stretch, you know, the pressure doesn't bother them and they find a way to make plays.''
The Lions have certainly benefited from some good fortune in these last two victories, but they've had to deal with plenty of adversity, too. Star receiver Calvin Johnson has been a nonfactor for the last month or so because of an ankle problem. Detroit has also dealt with injuries at the running back and tight end spots - and all over the defense.
Yet the Lions (6-2) lead Green Bay by a game atop the division, and now they'll have a chance to rest during their open date. Detroit does not play again until Nov. 9 against Miami.
This fast start has helped the Lions move on a bit from their collapse at the end of last year. Detroit started 6-3 under coach Jim Schwartz, but the Lions lost six of their final seven games - despite having a fourth-quarter lead in all of them.
That 2013 season gave Detroit fans even more reason to be skeptical, hence, the ''Same Old Lions'' talk that pops up seemingly every time they lose.
But Schwartz was fired and replaced by Caldwell, and now it's Detroit's opponents facing questions about how they let late leads slip away in astounding fashion.
''I'm very excited to be a part of this team,'' Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. ''We put ourselves in tough situations, but if you watch our psyche and you watch from the sidelines, no long faces, nothing of that sort.''
Detroit entered Sunday's game with the No. 1-ranked defense, and in the second half, the Lions shut down Atlanta completely. The offense, playing without Johnson, settled for short field goals on a couple trips to the red zone, but a 59-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate put Detroit right back in the game in the third quarter.
Was that good offense by Detroit or inexcusably poor defense by Atlanta? It doesn't matter. The Lions took advantage.
''We just needed to play the way we knew how to play,'' Caldwell said. ''Take care of our responsibilities and take care of our job, and not anyone else's, and I think the guys measured up and got it done.''
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