Lions come back in fourth for 23-22 win at Falcons

Every second counts in the NFL and if you didn’t believe it, now you do if you watched the Lions pull out a 23-22 win at the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Lions (3-3) got the ball back with 64 seconds remaining, on their own 25-yard line with no timeouts and needing 7 points for the win.

Turns out Matthew Stafford had a comeback in his pocket and his 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson who worked hard to keep his route alive.

“They played a different coverage than we thought and it ended up being zone. There’s a guy I can’t remember what number he was, he was sitting right in the middle at the goal line,’’ Hockenson said. “I turned around and saw Staff scramble and I continued on the route, he ended up finding it.’’

Hockenson (5 catches, 59 yards) knew it was coming.

“When (Stafford) reared back I was like, ‘Here it comes, let’s do this.’ We work on that all the time,’’ Hockenson said. “It’s super cool to see it come to fruition on Sunday.’’

And, it was National Tight Ends Day. Perfect.

It was Stafford’s 30th career fourth-quarter comeback and his 36th game-winning drive. He finished 25 of 36 for 340 yards, one touchdown and a 108.6 rating.

That last drive was something. It started with an incompletion to Kenny Golladay (6 catches, 114 yards) who couldn’t stay inbounds on the catch.

Then a 13-yard pass to Hockenson who had trouble getting out of bounds to stop the clock. 

Stafford spike

Then a 22-yard pass to Danny Amendola.

Stafford spike

Then a 29-yard pass to Golladay at the Atlanta 11-yard line.

Then a challenge.

Stafford spike.

Touchdown pass to Hockenson which tied the game at 22-22.

Lions took a penalty on the touchdown, so extra-point yardage was from 48 yards.

Prater’s kick was good.

Lions win 23-22 with no time left on the clock.

And here’s the thing, Atlanta running back Todd Gurley played a big part in Detroit’s win. He ran in for a touchdown on first down from 10 yards out with 64 seconds left. Had he not gone in, the Falcons could have run more time off the clock.

Falcons coach Raheem Morris admitted afterward they were trying to get to the 1-yard line and it looked like Gurley knew that but it was too late — he was over the goal line.

The win was the second straight for the Lions and it boosted their record to 3-3. They’re at Ford Field next Sunday to host the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) who will be coming off a bye week.

Five things to watch as Lions face Falcons

The Detroit Lions have a chance to win their second straight game on Sunday for the first time since games 2 and 3 of the 2019 season.

The Lions (2-3) face the Falcons (1-5) at Atlanta at 1 p.m.

Coach Matt Patricia said stacking wins is the goal, looking at each Sunday as a one-game season.

“Certainly, I think there is a mentality about that where, OK, when you come off of a win and you played a game that is positive, that you learn from whatever mistakes may have showed up, and obviously we’ll learn from the good things that you did, and then carry that over into the next week to build on it and kind of – we say stack them together or build on top of each other – and I think that’s how you show your growth and your improvement,’’ Patricia said this week on a Zoom call.

The Falcons, who already ditched head coach Dan Quinn and are playing under interim coach Raheem Morris, are coming off their first win.

Five things to watch:

1. Don’t give up on the run. The Lions’ run game has been a standout so far averaging 117 rushing yards per game. In the win at Jacksonville last week they ran for 180 yards (116 by D’Andre Swift). This has been an issue for the Lions for years, but seems to be looking up. “Certainly gameplan-wise, it opens up some stuff for you. I think (Matthew) Stafford does a great job of utilizing all of those different runs that we have and mixing with the play passes, the misdirection plays, the boot plays, things like that. So I think it just helps us be able to reach the ball into different areas of the field,’’ Patricia said.

2. Keep an eye on Matthew Stafford and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.  Stafford ranks second in NFL history with an average of 274.4 passing yards per game, and Ryan is 3rd with a 271.9 average. Stafford has more yards this season per game (248) but it’s not all about the two quarterbacks who happen to be great friends. Stafford got off to a bit of a slow start this season but has improved. Had his best game in win at Jacksonville last week.

3. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned last week and had his best game this season with eight catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “Obviously offensively for them, it starts with the quarterback, with Matt Ryan, but Julio Jones – his return, his play, his speed, his strength, his power, his run after catch, all of it – just showed in its full form, and I think that you just see on tape how dominant he is as a receiver, how great of a player he is,’’ Patricia said. “It’s like I say all the time – when you’re that great of a player, and everybody knows you are, try to do everything you can to limit what you can do, but you still go out and do what you do every single game. It’s pretty amazing.’’ He’ll be a handful for the Lions secondary who will be without CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring).

4. Detroit can’t overlook Atlanta due to its 1-5 record. “I think for all of us, you just look at their players and you can see how dangerous and how good they are. Certainly, from our standpoint, I think we know that it’s 60 minutes of football in the NFL. Sometimes it’s more. That’s just what it is. Like we talk about all the time, I think it’s 67 percent of the games are one possession (games) or seven points-or-less, and 34 percent are three points-or-less. I think you’re seeing that in the NFL this year,’’ Patricia said.

5. The Lions are healthy with the exception of Trufant. It’s been rough early in the season due to injuries, although that’s no excuse. Patricia is not big on momentum but was very happy last Sunday when they were able to see their two weeks of work (with the bye) show up on the field. “I thought that was really great,’’ Patricia said.

PREDICTION: Lions 28, Falcons 24