Justin Rogers, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski break down the Lions' victory against the Giants and what it means with the trade deadline looming. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Detroit — The Lions started fast, fended off a rally and put away the visiting New York Giants, 31-26, thanks to a late-game trick play at Ford Field on Sunday.
Up five early in the fourth quarter, the Lions dug deep into the playbook to push their dwindling lead back to double digits, running a flea-flicker that resulted in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay.
Lined up in I-formation, Stafford pitched the ball to running back J.D. McKissic, heading right. After a couple steps, McKissic threw the ball back to Stafford, standing near the left hash mark. The quarterback then launched a deep ball to an open Golladay for the long score.
"We have to give (McKissic) the hockey assist or something," Stafford said. "He was the pass before the pass that scored. That was a good one. It was a great call. Obviously Kenny did a great job, J.D. did a great job."
Detroit's defense did the rest, stepping up to force a turnover on downs on consecutive drives to secure the hard-fought victory.
"That’s a really good Giants team," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "They’re tough, they keep coming, and they play 60 minutes — they battled. I’m really proud of our players, I think they battled all the way through the game, and they stayed with it. We knew it was going to be a tough game."
Starting with the first half, the game was defined by big plays — both made and surrendered by the Lions (3-3-1).
After the Giants punted, Stafford tossed an interception on the Lions' first possession.
"I got totally in between about how I wanted to throw the ball, whether I wanted to rip it over (number) 21’s head or I wanted to throw into the back of the end zone, let Marvin (Jones) go get it," Stafford said about the early mistake. "Somewhere in between was not a good place."
Following the mistake, it was Detroit's defense that broke the scoreless tie.
Coming on a blitz, linebacker Jarrad Davis hit Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, forcing his rushed throw to travel backward and into the ground. The live ball was scooped up by Devon Kennard, who returned it 13 yards for a touchdown.
"It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me," Kennard said.
Davis was credited with a sack and a fumble on the play.
Still in the opening quarter, the Lions extended their early advantage to 14 thanks to a pair of lengthy third-down conversions. Facing third-and-8, Stafford found Danny Amendola for a 25-yard gain, setting the Lions up near midfield. Following a delay of game, a botched screen pass and a no-gain run, Stafford connected with Marvin Hall on a 49-yard touchdown pass.
"That was a huge play today, third-and-15," Stafford said. "Anytime you convert that, it’s great. You score a 50-yard touchdown on it, it’s even better."
Hall has developed into a rarely targeted but highly efficient deep threat for the Lions. He's recorded a reception of at least 34 yards in each of the past four games, including gains of 58, 47 and 49 the past three.
Not acquiescing to the home team, the Giants (2-6) battled back in the second quarter. Working out of a first-and-20 hole to start the frame, receiver Golden Tate broke a tackle to pick up 18 yards and convert a third down across midfield. Three plays later, Jones found fellow rookie Darius Slayton for a 22-yard touchdown on a fade over the coverage of Rashaan Melvin.
The Lions failed to counter, keeping the rally alive.
After pushing the ball into Giants territory, Detroit's drive stalled due to a chop block penalty called against tight end T.J. Hockenson. Forced to settle for a long field goal, kicker Matt Prater sent the 53-yard effort wide right, setting the Giants up with a short field.
After quickly working across midfield, Jones went back to Slayton. This time the duo hooked up from 28 yards out, again working against Melvin. A missed extra point by kicker Aldrick Rosas left the Lions up, 14-13, with 4:39 left in the half.
"I think he’s come up for us and made a lot of big-time plays," Jones said about Slayton. "I think we all have a lot of trust in him. Obviously, he’s super talented and his speed and just athleticism, but he’s shown to make those contested catches, the tough catches with people on him."
Aided by a phantom running into the punter call against the Giants, the Lions were able to stem the tide before halftime with a 52-yard field goal by Prater, making it 17-13 at the break.
Getting the ball to start the second half, Stafford came out firing, completing all five of his throws for 67 yards on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Facing pressure up the middle on third-and-2 from the Giants 9, Stafford threw off his back foot, targeting Golladay near the front corner of the end zone. Rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker got a hand on the ball, but Golladay showed outstanding concentration, corralling in the deflection prior to getting both feet down in bounds.
Tate, a former Lion, marveled at Golladay's maturation following the game.
"When he first got there, I was like, ‘This dude is not very good,'" Tate admitted. "He quickly, quickly changed that. His work ethic — he showed up wanting to be good. In his first year, he showed us some glimpses of wanting to be amazing. The second year he did amazing. And — he’s on his third year now, right? His third year, he’s just thriving. He’s thriving. It’s been fun to watch him grow."
Not to be outdone by Detroit's quick score to start the half, the Giants responded with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own. Jones hit Saquon Barkley on a short throw that turned into a 38-yard gain as the star running back accelerated through the layers of Detroit's zone defense.
A pair of penalties against the secondary — Davis drew a 15-yard infraction for hitting a sliding Jones and Justin Coleman was flagged for a hold on third down — set up a 2-yard scoring strike from Jones to tight end Evan Engram. To add injury to insult, Tracy Walker hurt his knee colliding with teammate Christian Jones on the play.
A failed two-point conversion left New York's deficit at five, 24-19.
Following a pair of punts, the Lions drove into Giants territory and pulled out the double-pass to go up 12.
Looking to keep pace, the Giants neared Detroit territory before defensive end Trey Flowers knocked them back with back-to-back sacks. A 20-yard completion to Barkley set up fourth-and-6, but Coleman knocked away a pass intended for Tate to end the threat.
On the ensuing possession, Golladay lost a fumble, giving the Giants possession at the Lions 38. But the defense forced another turnover on downs after consecutive incompletions on end-zone shots to Slayton.
The Giants managed a late touchdown, with 1:19 remaining on a 4-yard pass from Jones to Barkley, but failed to recover an onside kick.
Stafford completed 25 of 32 passes for 342 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Golladay caught six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Danny Amendola had a team-high eight receptions for 95 yards.
Jones was 28 of 41 passing for 322 yards and four touchdowns. Barkley rushed 19 times for 64 yards and also caught eight passes for 79 yards and one TD. Tate also had eight grabs for 85 yards.