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Stafford rallies Lions past Seahawks

By Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — He was in his hospital bed, gown on, looking like his leg had just been amputated, Dominic Raiola said.

But when the Lions finished their final offensive meeting of the week Saturday night, there was their locker-room leader, Nate Burleson, on the video screen a day after undergoing surgery to reset his broken leg with an inspirational message no one expected.

“It was just Nate being Nate,” Raiola said. “Just ended with a little speech. It was a motivation once we saw him. It was kind of like everybody’s eyes lit up.

“We said from the beginning of the week we wanted to play with Nate’s spirit and passion. You know how much he would love to be out here and that quote he says, ‘A big comeback doesn’t start without a setback.’ So that was big for us. We took that and ran with it.”

The Lions, masters of the comeback, did it again Sunday as Matthew Stafford played his best game of the season and Burleson’s replacement, Titus Young, caught two touchdowns including the game-winner with 20 seconds left as the Lions rallied to beat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24, at Ford Field.

Stafford led his ninth game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in 36 career starts, and his third comeback of the season.

The Lions (3-4) have a chance to get to .500 next week against lowly Jacksonville (1-6) after losing four of their previous five games.

“This is big,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “We just needed a spark to get going in the right direction. I feel like we’ve got a ton of talent, we’ve got the right scheme, we just need that spark. And I hope this will carry us forward.”

Stafford’s heroics capped a draining week in which he played maybe his worst game of the season Monday night in a loss to the Bears and came under fire locally for his role in the Lions’ early-season struggles.

But Sunday, Stafford completed 34 of 49 passes for 352 yards, threw three touchdowns and ran for a fourth score. On the game-winning drive, he converted all three of his third-down passes, including the quick slant to Young against Brandon Browner from the 1-yard line.

“That was a called play,” Stafford said. “There were about four dudes standing next to Calvin Johnson, one dude standing next to Titus. I liked my numbers over there a little bit better.”

Stafford entered the game with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five), and he threw another bad one Sunday on a pass intended for Tony Scheffler deep in Seahawks territory.

But he also snapped the Lions’ first-half touchdown drought – they hadn’t crossed the end zone before halftime since a Week 1 win against the Rams – with a 6-yard pass to Ryan Broyles on the final play of the first quarter, and was 10-for-15 on the final drive with one drop by Calvin Johnson and two passes thrown away.

“I knew we were going to score,” Vanden Bosch said. “It’s just again what we’ve come to expect. When the ball’s in Matthew Stafford’s hands and game’s on the line and he needs to make a play, he does that over and over and over again.”

Young, the Lions’ No. 2 receiver with Burleson out, made plays over and over again Sunday, too, catching a career-high nine passes for 100 yards.

Sometimes emotional to his own detriment, Young caught a 46-yard laser from Stafford on a third-and-11 play midway through the second quarter to cut Seattle’s lead to 17-14.

He also had a diving 9-yard catch on third-and-eight to keep alive a third-quarter drive.

“We knew he had it in him,” Johnson said. “We were just waiting for him to come out with it. He had a chance Sunday to get it. He made his plays. That’s what we’re going to need from him the rest of the year with Nate gone.”

The Seahawks (4-4) scored 17 points on their first three possessions, but had two turnovers in four second-half possessions, including a fumble on the game’s desperation final play.

Marshawn Lynch scored on a 77-yard run, but had just 12 carries for 105 yards total. The Seahawks also got a first-quarter field goal when the Lions kept alive a drive with a special-teams penalty and a second-quarter touchdown three plays after a pass-interference call on Jonte Green.

The Lions, who played without three defensive starters and lost safety Louis Delmas to a knee injury in the third quarter, converted 12 of 16 third downs Sunday.

“The difference today was we showed up in the first half, put 14 on the board, and battled in the third quarter and really had a pretty good day offensively minus the interception I threw,” Stafford said. “We had a great tempo going, a great belief in that huddle in that fourth-quarter drive. That’s just kind of what we do. I think everybody in that huddle wasn’t blinking at all, just ready to go.”

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