ARLINGTON, Texas – Facedown on the turf, Tony Romo pounded his hands into the ground like a petulant child.
Frustrated by yet another season-ending failure? Far from it. The Dallas quarterback was celebrating after giving the Cowboys the lead in a stirring playoff comeback.
Romo threw two touchdown passes to Terrance Williams, the second for the lead late in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys rallied for a 24-20 wild-card win over Detroit on Sunday in their first playoff game in five years.
Dallas (13-4) wiped out an early two-touchdown deficit to advance to a divisional game in Green Bay, their first postseason visit there since a heartbreaking loss to the Packers in the Ice Bowl in 1967.
“You just have to stay in the moment and understand the game,” Romo said. “It doesn’t end after the first quarter, second quarter. You just have to keep calm. I’ve played enough games to understand that. Maybe I didn’t do that as well when I was younger.”
Detroit went 99 yards for one of two first-quarter touchdowns, but Matthew Stafford couldn’t get them in the end zone again.
The Lions (11-6) were driving with a 20-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter when referee Pete Morelli announced a pass interference penalty against Anthony Hitchens on a third-down throw to Brandon Pettigrew. But officials reversed the call without explanation, and Sam Martin kicked a 10-yard punt after the Lions tried to draw Dallas offside on fourth-and-1.
After the game, Morelli said another official with a “better view” thought the call made by the back judge should be changed.
Romo took the Cowboys 59 yards in 11 plays, including a 21-yard pass to Jason Witten on fourth-and-6. The winner to Williams was an 8-yarder after Romo had several seconds to throw behind an offensive line among the league’s best because Dallas has drafted linemen in the first round three of the past four years.
Dallas had to wait a bit longer to celebrate. DeMarcus Lawrence gave the Lions the ball back with a fumble following Anthony Spencer’s sack that knocked the ball loose from Stafford, who was 28 of 42 for 323 yards.
Lawrence redeemed himself on the clincher, sacking Stafford on fourth down near midfield in the final minute.
The Lions have not won a playoff game since the 1991 season, when they beat Dallas.
Dallas rode quick starts to a 4-0 December that carried it to the NFC East title, but a sluggish first quarter put the Cowboys in a hole.
Golden Tate bounced up from a flattening hit by C.J. Spillman on a punt return and beat Barry Church on a 51-yard pass to open the scoring. Church called out Tate on his radio show earlier in the week, saying the Cowboys were going to pay him back for a blindside block on Sean Lee that got Tate fined three years ago when he was with Seattle.
The Lions went up 14-0 on a drive that amounted to 99 3/4 yards. After Dekoda Watson ran into Martin to keep the drive alive, the 14-play drive ended with Reggie Bush faking Orlando Scandrick on an 18-yard scoring run.
Williams (three catches for 92 yards) pulled the Cowboys within seven when he took a short pass from Romo 76 yards for the TD.
NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray slogged his way to 75 yards on 19 carries against the NFL’s best run defense, including a 1-yard plunge on fourth down that pulled Dallas to 20-14 late in the third quarter.
The Cowboys were coming off three straight 8-8 seasons that ended with losses that kept them out of the playoffs.
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