(Reuters) - The Detroit Lions scored a dramatic late touchdown to beat the Dallas Cowboys, while the Kansas City Chiefs remained unbeaten and the Denver Broncos rallied for a big win in National Football League action on Sunday.
On a day when the Miami Dolphins frittered away a two-touchdown lead against the New England Patriots to lose their fourth straight, Detroit pulled off an unlikely 31-30 victory as Calvin Johnson had 329 yards receiving, the second-most in NFL history.
Following a Dallas field goal, the Lions regained possession trailing by six points with barely one minute left in the game.
But quarterback Matthew Stafford broke the heart of the team he supported as a boy by driving the Lions 80 yards in six plays.
A Stafford pass to Johnson moved the ball to the one-yard line with 22 seconds left.
As the clock ticked away, Stafford rushed his offense to the line and indicated to his team-mates he was going to spike the ball.
Instead, he caught his own team - and the Cowboys - by surprise, extending his arms over the goal line for a game-tying touchdown, before David Akers converted the extra point with 12 seconds left.
“I told everybody I was going to spike it… I looked down and I just needed to go. I sure am glad I got across,” Stafford said.
Added wide receiver Johnson: “He caught the guys napping on the defensive line. I didn’t know he (Stafford) was going to do it but it was a great move by him.”
Losing head coach Jason Garrett admitted the defeat was hard to swallow.
“We were in a great position to win… and we didn’t get it done,” he said. “They went with a quarterback sneak. It’s a gutsy call by them and they did a nice job of executing the play.”
Detroit improved to 5-3, while the Cowboys slipped to 4-4, which still leads the NFC East.
Kansas City, meanwhile, struggled to get the job done at home for the second consecutive week, but the Chiefs nonetheless remain the only unbeaten team (8-0) thanks to a 23-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed 24 of 36 passes and threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
In Denver, the Broncos rebounded from their first loss of the season last week to score the final five touchdowns and crush the Washington Redskins 45-21.
Washington gave themselves a chance for a big upset when they led the high-flying Broncos 21-7 in the third quarter.
But the Super Bowl favorite Broncos scored 31 points in the fourth quarter and held the Redskins scoreless in the final 20 minutes to improve to 7-1 and remain nipping at the heels of the Chiefs in the AFC West.
Peyton Manning overcame four turnovers to complete 30 of 44 passes for 354 yards and four scores.
In New England, the Patriots seemed destined for their first home loss of the season when the Dolphins led 17-3 at halftime.
But the pivotal moment came early in the third quarter when the Dolphins hit the right upright on an unsuccessful 37-yard field goal attempt.
Buoyed by the reprieve, the Patriots’ offense finally started to click and they took the lead before the end of the quarter en route to a 27-17 victory.
New England improved to 6-2 for the season, though quarterback Tom Brady admitted they have struggled at times.
“We didn’t do much good in the first half but the second half was great,” Brady said.
“We’re still grinding away. We’re going to have to do a better job and play well for 60 minutes because ultimately that’s what it’s going to take.”
Miami (3-4) is the first team since 2002 to lose four in a row after winning the first three games of the season.
In New Orleans, the Saints improved to 6-1 as they muscled to a 35-17 win over the Buffalo Bills behind Drew Brees’ five touchdown passes.
The visiting New York Giants won their second game in a row as they beat the Philadelphia Eagles 15-7 on five field goals by Josh Brown.
Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick aggravated a hamstring injury late in the first half and was replaced by rookie Matt Barkley.
The New York Jets, a week after beating New England, fell back to earth as they were thrashed 49-9 by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals (6-2) lead the AFC North, while the Jets (4-4) are second in the AFC East.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry