Essentials from Sunday: Cardiac cats

The Detroit Lions are finding ways to win after trailing big, part of an NFL trend lately. Of course, there were some big passing performances, intriguing rushing streaks and other unique ways to win Sunday.

The Detroit Lions were known for their late-season collapses in recent years to keep them out of the playoffs. Last year, they lost four in a row to end the season 7-9, and in 2012 they lost their final eight to finish 4-12. But this season it’s their late-game comebacks that are defining Detroit.

The Lions are just the fifth team in NFL history win back-to-back games when trailing by at least 14 points one week and 21 points the next week. This time, they gave the Atlanta Falcons some Wembley whiplash after trailing 21-0 in the second half but coming back for a 22-21 win in London as part of the NFL’s International Series. Last week, the Lions overcame a 14-point deficit against the New Orleans Saints in a 24-23 win.

It was the second time in the last four seasons that Detroit won a game in which it failed to score in the first half and trailed by at least 20 points at intermission, according to the Elias Sport Bureau (they also did it in 2011 against the Minnesota Vikings). The only other NFL team with two such victories in their entire history is New England (1996 against the Giants and 2013 against the Broncos).

While it might be a surprise it was the Lions doing it, especially without the services of injured offensive stars Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise there was another big comeback in the NFL. It was the sixth time this season a team overcome of a deficit of 17 point or more, the second-most times that has happened through eight weeks of a season (2011 featured eight such games through eight weeks).

In that Lions comeback, Matthew Stafford joined Tom Brady and Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to start three games in which their team overcame a deficit of 21 points to win. Stafford also increased his career touchdown passes to 120, surpassing Lions Hall of Famer Bobby Layne for the most in franchise history.

What else happened Sunday in the NFL? Plenty.

  • The Minnesota Vikings needed their own last-minute comeback, but the deficit for them was only three points and their last-second field goal took the game into overtime. However, once there, it ended quickly. On the first play of scrimmage in overtime, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled. Minnesota rookie linebacker Anthony Barr forced it, recovered it and returned the ball 27 yards for a touchdown to end the game. It was the fourth overtime game in NFL history decided by a fumble return for a touchdown, and the score came 17 seconds into overtime, making it the quickest fumble-return touchdown in overtime since overtime became a thing during regular-season games in 1974.

  • Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 81 seconds remaining in a 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the longest game-winning touchdown pass inside the 2-minute warning of the fourth quarter in Cardinals history, according to Elias.

  • Ben Roethlisberger lit up the Indianapolis Colts defense for 522 yards passing, six touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a 150.6 pass rating in a 51-34 win. Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history with two 500-yard games (he had 503 against the Green Bay Packers in 2009) and his 522 yards are fourth-most in NFL history.

    The Steelers and Colts combined for 907 net passing yards, the second-most for a game in NFL history (Green Bay and Detroit combined for 971 on Jan. 1, 2012).

  • In the New England Patriots’ 51-23 win over the Bears, Tom Brady won his 87th home start, the most of any quarterback in his first 100 home starts. His .870 winning percentage at home is the highest of any starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966, minimum 50 home starts).

  • Rob Gronkowski added to the tight end accolades in 2014. He had nine catches for 149 yards for the Patriots, the fourth time this year a tight end had three touchdowns in a game, which is already an NFL record with nine weeks of the regular season remaining.

  • Let’s hear it for the undrafted underdogs. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster rushed for 151 yards in a 30-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, tying Priest Holmes for most 100-yard rushing games by an undrafted player. They each have 31 100-yard games. Foster also became the sixth back in NFL history with four 100-yard rushing games in one October (in other words, October of one calendar year), according to Elias.

  • Kyle Orton’s four touchdown passes on 10 completions for the Buffalo Bills is the first time a quarterback has had four touchdowns with 10 or fewer completions since Bubby Brister did it on Dec. 23, 1990.

  • Geno Smith’s day was one to forget. The New York Jets quarterback threw three interceptions and completed only two passes for 5 yards before being benched. The last player with three or more interceptions in a game of 5 yards or less was Richard Todd of the Saints against the 49ers in 1984, according to Elias.

  • When Kansas City Chiefs return man Knile Davis took a kick return 99 yards for a touchdown in a 34-7 win over the St. Louis Rams, he became the fifth player in NFL history with a kickoff return touchdown of at least 99 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons.


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