The narrative leading into today was headlined by Dez Bryant relating himself and his play to the superstardom of Calvin Johnson.
"I can do anything Megatron can do," Bryant said.
His play may, in some ways, replicate the greatness of Calvin Johnson. But these two proved to be much different on Sunday.
After a relatively boring first three quarters, the fourth was a game of its own -- 41 points scored between the two teams in the final 15 minutes, led to a 31-30 final score, capped off by a Matthew Stafford 80 yard game-winning touchdown drive that took only 62 seconds for the Lions to claim their fifth victory of the season.
Here's what we learned:
1. Matthew Stafford and the Lions are resiliant:
The Lions looked all but dead when the fourth quarter began. Four turnovers killed potential scoring drives throughout the game and the Lions couldn't seem to keep their offense sustained for an entire drive. Moreover, whenever the Lions' offense did get a quality touchdown drive put together, a defensive lapse seemed imminent and the Cowboys came up with a big play to extend their lead.
But as Lions fans have learned in the past, a team led by Stafford should never be considered out of a game.
Stafford, with no timeouts, hit Kris Durham on a go-route down the left sideline in between two defenders. Followed that with a Calvin Johnson seam route to the one yardline.
Then, Stafford showed his true genius.
With the clocking dwindling to its final ticks, Stafford signaled to all players, fans and people owning a pair of occular stems that he was going to clock the ball. The Cowboy defense was gassed, as well as his offensive line.
Knowing this, when the snap hit his hands, he didn't spike it, he lept over his center for the go-ahead touchdown.
The linemen (on both sides) reacted larthagically, Stafford knew it, and took advantage.
It capped his 12th fourth-quarter comeback in 53 career starts.
2. Calvin vs. Dez - who won?
If it wasn't known before, it is now. These two are good. Like, really good.
Megatron nearly set an all-time NFL record recording 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown. Yes, 329 yards! Only seven yards short of tying the single-game record.
He was unstoppable.
Double coverage, triple coverage, it didn't matter.
It was his 5th career 200+ yard recieving game (which actually tied an NFL record) and the Lions nearly lost.
Bryant, on the other hand, played well on limited targets.
Bryant was seen irate on the sidelines multiple times (again more on that later) because of, assumiingly, the lack of targets. Yet he still finished the day with three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, including an insane one-handed trap to the shoulder for a two-yard touchdown.
We all did.
3. Dez's maturity is not a problem...yet
A lot has been made thus far through Bryant's NFL career about his mental fortitude.
Two moments stand above all after the loss to the Lions, and neither stem from on the field play.
Bryant in the third quarter was seen in a very heated discussion not only with coaches, but his quarterback Tony Romo. Ranting, hand waving, eyebrow crunching amongst other things were all directed towards the Cowboys' offensive captain. Romo plead his case as did Bryant, then the argument dissipated. Shortly after, Bryant was hit for a massive touchdown down the sideline to extend the lead.
Later in the game following the Lions' go-ahead touchdown, Bryant was in the face of more high profile Cowboys which include the likes of Jason Witten and Demarcus Ware. Ware, who was inactive, was trying to diffuse the argument between Witten and Bryant.
These were two similar scenes, which gave me two opposite takes.
The first spat in the third quarter was warranted in my opinion. Bryant is one of the best wideouts in the game, yet he had only four targets nearly three quarters into the game. He knows, as well as most others, when he is involved in the offense, it is almost never a bad thing. I'm sure Cowboys fans can flashback to the Michael Irvin days and recall a few interactions he's had on the sideline about not being as involved as he should be in a game.
Bryant then was trying to fire up a very stagnant offense at that point.
Then, with 12 seconds to go and having just lost the lead. Bryant again, fired up a tantrum.
It wasn't the same. The rhetoric of the previous scene may have been individual based at some point, but he was right. The more involved he is, the better the team is. This at the end of the game screamed nothing about the team. This tantrum was remniscent of a toddler in a Toys R' Us checkout line. This did not help the team, this hurt the team. And the reactions of his veteran leadership (Witten and Ware) is all you need to know about that.
He's okay for now, but my advice to him is not to make a habit of these sideline outbursts.
4. Cowboys defense without Demarcus Ware is still a competent defense
The Cowboys' defense may have bent, but rarely did it break.
Demarcus Ware was out and the Cowboys knew they had to make plays, and they did.
They held the high-octane Lions' offense to only 7 points going into the fourth quarter and turned the ball over four times on the same Lions' offense who turned it over only once in its last three games.
The defense seemingly crumbled in the fourth quarter, giving up 24 points. But had the Cowboys' offense capitalized on the opportunities given to them, it should not have come down to a last second drive.
The play overall left a lot to be desired, but with what they had avaible, this defense gave it's offense a bunch of opportunities that went unfinished.
5. The Lions' defensive line is supremely disruptive
No sacks. No worries.
The Lions did not record a sack, but the amount of hits and hurries that were applied to Tony Romo caused a very underwhelming day for the Cowboy quarterback.
Romo was 14 of 30 for only 206 yards. Joseph Randle was the leading rusher with 26 yards on 14 carries.
Basically, the Cowboys' offense was completely out of sorts.
Much of that credit goes to Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and the rest of that Lions' defensive line.
This unit continues to be a focal point for the Lions' success.
The Lions head into their bye week with at least a share of first in the NFC North at 5-3. Their next two games will be huge as they take on division foes with the Bears and Packers.
The Cowboys still lead the dismal NFC East at 4-4, but they are only seperated by 2 games from the last place, 2-6 New York Giants. Yikes.