It was Kris Durham’s 40-yard catch down the sideline that put the Lions in position to score the game-winner in the final seconds. And it came on a play that players on the sideline were screaming for throughout the game.
“No. 32 (cornerback Orlando Scandrick) was sitting,” Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “We were sitting there saying, ‘He’s not getting his hands on Durham — Durham, Durham, Durham, Durham.’ And the perfect call. Great catch by Durham and Matt (Stafford) made a perfect throw.”
Stafford threaded the pass and Durham never had to break stride.
“(Receivers coach Tim) Lappano had told me to keep running the rail shots,” Durham said. “They’ve been open. So, I was just running and couldn’t have gotten a better pass. I was like, ‘OK, that’s easy.’”
Injuries to the Cowboys secondary also played a role in that play. They started the game without starting safety J.J. Wilcox. Free safety Barry Church went out late in the game and was not on the field.
Fourth-string safety Danny McCray and just-signed Jakar Hamilton were on the field.
“There was a new safety on that drive, a guy that hadn’t been playing the whole game,” Stafford said. “I kind of noticed that. Durham never quit. He, just like everybody else in the stadium, everybody thinks I am throwing the ball to No. 81 (Calvin Johnson), right? You have to defend everybody and everybody has to run.”
Rookie defensive end Devin Taylor continues to grow up quickly. A season-ending knee injury to Jason Jones forced him into the rotation. An ankle injury to Ziggy Ansah forced him into a major role Sunday.
And he delivered.
Taylor was stout against the run, had a couple of quarterback pressures and drew the most significant holding penalty of the season.
“That might have been the biggest play of the game right there,” defensive end Willie Young said. “Had they got that first down the game was over.”
Had they just been allowed to run the next play without the clock stopping, the game would have been over.
Taylor was held by tackle Tyron Smith on a third-and-14 play with 1:07 left. The penalty stopped the clock and bought the Lions, who were out of timeouts, another 40 seconds for their game-winning drive.
“We had an extra big man in and my job is to stay on that edge and keep everything going back inside,” Taylor said. “The running back cut to the other side, so I was about to shed a blocker and go back to that side – then he came back to my side.
“So all I did was just press out and try to use my strength like coach taught me. Then just that extra bit of holding at the very end.”
Receiver Nate Burleson has been telling reporters for a couple of weeks that he was close, that his broken forearm was about healed and if they ever saw him running routes before the game and catching passes, they’d know he’s about to be back.
Burleson, before the game, was running routes and catching footballs before the game.
“I’m trying to shoot for Chicago,” he said, referring to the Lions’ first game back after the break Nov. 10 at Soldier Field. “I just taped it up. I’m out of the brace now so I was able to catch a few balls before the game, trying to get myself back in a rhythm.
“I have to jump in the water swimming. These guys are playing at a high level. So, I don’t want there to be any drop off when I get back on the field.”
Burleson’s return has been hastened by the likelihood that Ryan Broyles could be lost for the rest of the season. The initial reports after the game said Broyles had ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Burleson isn’t sure he could survive sitting out another game — especially one like Sunday.
“Straight blows to the head,” he said of the toe-to-toe action. “One guy gets up right before the 10-count, he throws another haymaker — it was one of those bouts, a true heavyweight fight. I forgot I was injured at one point. I was about to run out on the field.”
For those of you who left Ford Field early, the players noticed. Burleson noticed.
“It was amazing,” Burleson said. “I mentioned to the guys afterwards, there were empty seats with about five minutes left in the game. That’s not taking a shot towards the fans that left, but the people that didn’t leave were the players and the staff in the locker room, the coaches.”
Willie Young noticed.
“If there’s one thing the Detroit Lions are going to do, we’re going to stick together,” he said. “I don’t care what the situation is. We don’t care what the score it. One thing you can count on is we’re going to keep coming. Until that clock reads double-zero we’re coming.
“I just hate it, man. I look up at the five-minute mark and I see a lot of people missing in the stands. I’ll give a shout-out to all the loyal fans. I hate that we put them in the situations that we put them in, but at the same time, it’s going to take everybody — us, coaching staff, fans, everybody we got.”
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky