ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo has a stirring playoff comeback to go with all the late-season disappointments.
Romo threw two touchdown passes to Terrance Williams, the second for the lead late in the fourth quarter, and the Dallas Cowboys rallied for a 24-20 wild-card win over Detroit on Sunday in their first playoff game in five years.
The Cowboys (13-4) wiped out an early two-touchdown deficit to earn a trip to 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.”
The Lions (11-6) went 99 yards for one of two first-quarter touchdowns, but Matthew Stafford couldn’t get them in the end zone again. He fell to 0-2 in the playoffs three years after losing a wild-card game to New Orleans.
Detroit was 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 pass to Brandon Pettigrew. But officials reversed the call without explanation, and Sam Martin had a 10-yard punt after the Lions tried to draw Dallas offside on fourth-and-1.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he got an explanation, but didn’t like it. “Not good enough,” he said.
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.
The Cowboys had to wait a little longer to celebrate after rookie DeMarcus Lawrence gave the Lions the ball back with a fumble following Anthony Spencer’s sack that knocked the ball loose from Stafford.
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 linebacker 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 badly 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 to the end zone.
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.
Romo, who cost Dallas a chance to win with the infamous flub of the snap on a potential winning field in Seattle eight years ago, improved to 2-4 in the postseason. The 34-year-old who had back surgery in December 2013 and sustained another back injury that knocked him out of a game this season, endured a season-high six sacks.
Two were on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter by Ndamukong Suh, who was suspended Monday for stepping on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, but reinstated a day later. Romo had 293 yards passing yards and a quarterback rating almost right on his franchise-best 113.2 that led the NFL.
Stafford, playing his hometown team, was 28 of 42 for 323 yards. Calvin Johnson, who had 329 yards receiving in a comeback win in Detroit last year, had 85 yards on five catches. Tate had 89 yards on six grabs.