An apparent game-winning touchdown by Golden Tate was overturned in Detroit, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to sneak out of Ford Field with a 30-26 victory over the Lions. Here is what you need to know:
1. Matthew Stafford came up a hair shy of another fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory. Trailing by four points, Stafford drove Detroit to the 1-yard-line with 12 seconds to play. Catching a quick slant, Golden Tate appeared to dive into the end zone. After officials reviewed the play, however, it was deemed the receiver was touched down just short of the goal-line, taking the score off the board. With only eight seconds remaining on the clock, by rule a 10-second runoff ended the game.
The win moved Atlanta to 3-0. The Falcons are the first team to start the season with three victories after losing the Super Bowl since the 2006 Seattle Seahawks. The Lions fell to 2-1, but proved they could hang with the class of the NFC.
A league spokesperson clarified the application of the rule:
Rule 4, Section 7, Article 4: Replay review after two-minutes warning of either half. If a replay review after the two-minute warning of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal. The defense cannot decline the runoff, but either team can use a remaining timeout to prevent it.
2. Devonta Freeman showed he was worth the big-money contract he signed this offseason. The bulldozing running back was a menace, trucking defenders to the tune of 106 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 totes. Freeman powered the offense up and down the field, churning out yards for a Falcons offense that didn't punt until late in the fourth quarter. When the Lions loaded up the secondary to stop Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Freeman made them pay. Credit the Falcons' offensive interior for opening huge lanes up the gut, and setting the edge to spring Freeman and Tevin Coleman on a bevy of stretch runs and sweeps.
3. Matt Ryan had gone 309 straight passes without throwing an interception. Then the Falcons quarterback tossed three in 15 throws. The first was a pick-six that safety Glover Quin read the whole way. The latter two were deflected passes that landed in the arms of corner Darius Slay. The turnovers allowed the Lions to stay in a game that Atlanta controlled handily most of the afternoon. The Falcons offense was a balanced force. Outside of two sacks given up by replacement right tackle Ty Sambrailo, the offensive line dominated. It's clear after the last two weeks, Atlanta's high-flying offense will be fine under Steve Sarkisian.
4. The Lions defense forced turnovers, but struggled to get stops throughout the game. First-round linebacker Jarrad Davis (concussion) missing the tilt played a huge factor. The Lions had no one that could stick with Freeman and Coleman in coverage, and got gashed on the ground in the gaps Davis had made plays the first two weeks. The Lions D played well in the first two weeks, but doesn't own the depth to overcome injuries. Facing a functioning offensive line this week also slowed Detroit's pass rush. On a plus side for the Lions, second-year safety Miles Killebrew got the start and was all over the field (nine tackles). The speeding bullet is a player to keep an eye on.
5. The Lions offense continues to stall just outside the red zone. Stafford struggled to convert several third-and-shorts that could have extended drives. Luckily for the Lions, Matt Prater is darn near automatic from deep. The kicker banged home four field goals, including one from 55 yards and another from 57. The latter extended Prater's NFL record with 14 consecutive makes from 50-plus yards.