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Sunday, October 2, 2011
Happy homecoming for Matthew Stafford

By Tim MacMahon

ARLINGTON, Texas – It wasn’t always pretty, but Matthew Stafford had to be happy with the result of his first game at Cowboys Stadium.

Stafford played in Texas Stadium several times in playoff games while starring for Highland Park High School, but an injured shoulder forced him to stand on the sideline and watch during the Lions’ visit here last year. He admitted this week that he pumped his fist as soon as he saw the Lions’ schedule in the spring, eager to get a chance to play near his hometown.

With about 25 friends and family members in the stands, including former classmate Clayton Kershaw, Stafford struggled for most of the game. (Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace who is favored to win the National League's Cy Young Award, was Stafford's center in middle school.)

But Stafford finished strong, leading the Lions to rally from 24 points down, setting the NFL record for the biggest road comeback. It was the second straight week Stafford and the Lions came back from 20-plus-point deficits.

“We can’t keep doing that,” Stafford said. “We know that.”

Stafford’s stat line from this game won’t send him to the Pro Bowl. He completed only 21 of 43 passes for 240 yards. His numbers from the fourth quarter (10 of 16 for 121 yards and two touchdowns) were much more along the lines of the way he’s been performing so far this season for the undefeated Lions.

Nerves weren’t an issue, Stafford said. The Dallas defense presented a lot of problems, though.

“Rob Ryan has them playing great and that’s great personnel on the other side,” Stafford said. “We got in the hole early and had to start throwing the ball sooner than we wanted to. That’s their strength, playing pass defense and getting after the quarterback and mixing up their coverages. It took us a bit of a while to get settled down.”