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Stafford, defense rally Lions past Cowboys

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By JAIME ARON, AP Pro Football Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions are for real, all right.

A week after turning a 20-point halftime deficit into an overtime win, the Lions provided further proof they're a legitimate contender by turning a 24-point deficit into a 34-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The defense got it started with interceptions returned for touchdowns on consecutive drives midway through the third quarter, then Stafford and Johnson took over from there, hooking up for a pair of touchdowns in the final period, including a 2-yarder for the winning points with 1:39 left.

Detroit is 4-0 and has won an NFL-best eight straight games. This also was its franchise-record fifth straight road win, avenging a loss here last November that had been its NFL-record 26th straight road loss.

Tony Romo and the Cowboys (2-2) continued to show there's no lead and no deficit too big for them. They blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead for the first time in franchise history in the opener, and this was their largest lead blown in a loss in franchise history, according to STATS LLC, wiping out comeback wins the last two weeks. Dallas' previous biggest blown fourth-quarter lead was 21 against Washington on Nov. 28, 1965.

In addition to the two TDs Romo threw for Detroit defenders, he set up the Lions' winning touchdown with another interception at the Dallas 40-yard line with 4:13 left.

This was a bizarre way for the Cowboys to end an NFL-record streak of nine straight games decided by a field goal or less. The final play was wacky, too, with Felix Jones catching a short pass with no one around him on fourth-and-20, then running out of bounds after only gaining 8 yards.

Stafford took one last snap, dropped to a knee, then tucked the ball under his jersey for safekeeping. He'll never forget his first NFL game in his hometown, nor will many people on either side.

Stafford was 21 of 43 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, both to Johnson. He was intercepted once, on his first pass to Johnson, leading to Dallas' first touchdown. Stafford wasn't sacked but faced a lot of pressure - at least, during the first 2 1/2 quarters.

Johnson caught eight passes for 96 yards, and tied Cris Carter's NFL record of catching two TDs in four straight games. Johnson already was the first player in NFL history to do it in the first three games of a season.

Both of his scoring grabs were spectacular. There was a 23-yarder in which he reached up and over three Dallas defenders, then the game-winner, which came against tight coverage on a play when the Cowboys had 12 defenders on the field.

Romo finished 34 of 47 for 331 yards, with three touchdowns. He was still playing with a cracked rib, wearing a protective vest and needing a painkilling injection.

But those things didn't seem to bother him when he was on a roll of completing 13 of 14 passes, the only incompletion a clock-stopping spike. That streak ended when his good buddy Bobby Carpenter made a leaping interception and a weaving 35-yard return for a touchdown, starting Detroit's rally.

The Lions were still down 27-10, so it seemed harmless. Then, Detroit's Chris Houston picked off a pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown, and things got very interesting, very quickly.

The Lions' offense only had a field goal to that point, but the combination of Stafford and Johnson were tough to stop after that. Detroit also got a 51-yard field goal from Jason Hanson that put it within 30-27, just before Romo's final interception.

Dez Bryant was among the early stars for Dallas, catching two touchdown passes before Johnson even had a single grab, and Laurent Robinson had seven catches for 116 yards.

Bryant's only big moment in the second half was a diving catch overturned on a challenge by Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. Schwartz appeared to curse at Bryant after the play.

Game stats

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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