Late TD a defining moment for Stafford

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
8:25
PM ET
DETROIT -- Kris Durham has known his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, longer than any player in the Detroit locker room.

They met as teenagers, were teammates at Georgia, and now play together with the Detroit Lions. They are so familiar with each other, there are times Stafford can look at Durham and Durham knows exactly what he wants him to do.

And late on Sunday, Durham wanted to assist his friend. They had people from Georgia in town visiting and Stafford, usually the first player finished with his media responsibilities, had not showered yet.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesLions players celebrate after Matthew Stafford led an 80-yard drive in just 50 seconds to complete a comeback victory over the Cowboys.
He needed to go.

On this day, after that moment when Stafford faked a spike and then leaped into the end zone over the top of his unsuspecting linemen to cap a 31-30 Lions comeback over the Cowboys, the quarterback relished every moment. He explained over and over again what happened, what he saw, how he saw it.

Moments like this are what turn good quarterbacks into elite quarterbacks, what turn franchises that historically struggle into ones that can win. Stafford has led comebacks before. This might have topped them all.

“I mean, there’s no fear in him,” right guard Larry Warford said.

No fear to make the call that would either win or lose the game on his own. His offensive linemen didn’t know he was going to jump over them. They thought he was going to spike the ball. So did his receivers.

That was all Stafford. All guts.

“They were just pumped,” Stafford said, describing his teammates. “They were like calling me crazy and all that kind of stuff.”

It was a little bit crazy. His craziest? That's debatable. Last week he found a way to toss a 50-yard touchdown to Calvin Johnson in triple coverage. This week, he helped Johnson to a 329-yard receiving day, the second-best in league history.

“The one last week to Calvin, he was stumbling, escapes pressure and makes throws like that,” Durham said. “In a crucial moment right there, it might be the craziest but he makes plays all the time.

“It doesn’t matter when it is on the field, that one just happened to be with 12 seconds left.”

A locker over from where Stafford explained the final play was Reggie Bush. He had seen something similar to this before. While at USC, he assisted then-Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone with three seconds left to keep USC undefeated.

That became a defining moment in the college legacy of Leinart. Now Bush may have witnessed another one of those moments for his new quarterback. And Stafford savored it.

Today's game-winning play was just the latest in a season of memorable moments for Detroit. Winning at Washington for the first time ever. Coming from behind against Cleveland. Now this, leading his team from a 10-point deficit with less than seven minutes remaining to a dramatic victory with 12 seconds left.

Although reporters still had more questions to ask, Stafford eventually stopped talking. He apologized to reporters, got up and finally went to rinse off. This was his day.

He was going to enjoy it.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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