Arlington, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Tony Romo erased his label of playoff underachiever. The Detroit Lions weren't able to do the same.
Romo's 8-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with 2:32 remaining finished off a run of 17 unanswered Dallas points, lifting the Cowboys to a 24-20 victory over the Lions in a thrilling NFC Wild Card clash.
Detroit appeared on its way to its first postseason win since 1991 after taking a 20-7 lead deep into the third quarter, but Romo engineered three straight scoring drives to bring Dallas back on a night in which the Cowboys' two other offensive stars were mostly held in check by a stout Lions defense.
"It's how we've responded all year long," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said afterward.
With Dez Bryant managing a modest 48 yards on three catches while double covered much of the game, Williams also stepped up to help Dallas advance to a matchup with second-seeded Green Bay in next Sunday's Divisional round. The second-year wideout came through with a 76-yard touchdown late in the first half and finished with 92 yards on three grabs.
DeMarco Murray added a touchdown run while grinding out 75 yards on 19 carries against Detroit's top-ranked rushing defense, and the Cowboys received a boost as well from a controversial call that preceded the game-winning drive.
The Lions punted the ball away with 8:10 left following Matthew Stafford's incomplete pass on third down, which was initially ruled pass interference on Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens but then overturned by the officiating crew.
Stafford's throw hit Hitchens with the rookie's back facing the play as he covered Brandon Pettigrew, drawing a flag that was then picked up after referee Pete Morelli's group consulted.
"I thought it was ridiculous, to be honest," Pettigrew said. "(Hitchens) ran through me, pretty much. I was trying to get back to the ball. To me, it was obvious."
Sam Martin then shanked the ensuing punt, with the 10-yard boot starting the Cowboys at their own 41 while down 20-17.
Dallas promptly moved into scoring range, aided by a clutch 21-yard connection between Romo and Jason Witten on 4th-and-6 that brought the ball to the Lions' 21.
"I give coach Garrett credit for making that call. It shows he trusts us," Romo said. "To go to (Witten) in that situation was a no-brainer."
A defensive holding penalty on DeAndre Levy shortly afterward negated a third- down stop and gave the Cowboys a 1st-and-goal. Three plays later, Romo fired a bullet that Williams corralled for the go-ahead score.
Stafford got the Lions as far as the Cowboys' 42 with time winding down, but the Dallas native was sacked by DeMarcus Lawrence on fourth down to seal Detroit's eighth consecutive postseason loss.
"I'm not going to sit up here and act like that was the call that made the difference in the game," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of the overturned penalty. "We still had our chances."
Romo, who entered the matchup with a career 1-3 playoff record, shook off six sacks to throw for 293 yards and two touchdowns in a turnover-free 19-of-31 performance.
Stafford finished with 323 yards, 51 of which came on a first-quarter touchdown pass to Golden Tate, and was picked off once while completing 28- of-42 attempts.
Tate amassed 89 yards on six catches and Calvin Johnson recorded five receptions for 85 yards for Detroit, which built an early 14-0 lead by getting the game off to a soaring start.
The Lions' defense forced a quick punt on the opening drive and Stafford fired a strike down the middle on Detroit's fourth play from scrimmage, which Tate hauled in and outraced the Dallas defense less than 3 1/2 minutes in.
Detroit was pinned back to its own 1-yard line on their second series, which initially went three-and-out but was extended when the Cowboys' Dekoda Watson was flagged for running into Martin.
The Lions proceeded to march down the field, with Stafford converting a 3rd- and-8 on a key scramble and Reggie Bush capping the 14-play, 99-yard sequence by breaking off an 18-yard touchdown run.
Dallas, meanwhile, mustered only 80 yards over its first 25 plays before hitting big on its 26th.
The Cowboys picked up a blitz on 3rd-and-12 to allow Romo to connect with Williams, who blew past three defenders after making the catch near midfield to give Dallas a needed spark with 1:37 left in the first half.
Stafford was able to use the remaining time to get Detroit in range for Matt Prater's 39-yard field goal, however, to send the Lions into the break with a 17-7 advantage.
Usually automatic Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey pulled a 41-yard field goal try wide right early in the second half, negating Kyle Wilber's interception of a deflected Stafford pass. Prater then knocked through a 37-yard attempt on the ensuing drive, a kick set up by Johnson's 28-yard catch-and-run.
Bryant, held to one catch for two yards at that point, then rose to the occasion on the subsequent drive. The All-Pro receiver cradled in a 3rd-and-10 pass, broke free from Levy and scampered 43 yards before being taken down at the Detroit 7.
Murray ended the trek with a 1-yard run on 4th-and-goal to bring the Cowboys within 20-14 with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
The score seemed to energize the Dallas defense, which induced a three-and-out before the Cowboys marched 36 yards in seven plays to position Bailey for a 51-yard field goal with 12:16 to play.
Detroit's eight straight postseason losses ties an NFL record also held by Kansas City (1993-present). The Lions haven't won a playoff game on the road since 1957 ... Detroit's 99-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter was the first in a postseason game since Baltimore did so against Miami in the 2001 AFC Wild Card Round ... Williams' 76-yard touchdown was the longest scoring reception by a Cowboy in the postseason since Troy Aikman and Alvin Harper teamed up for a 94-yard score on Jan. 8, 1995 ... Dallas will be facing Green Bay at Lambeau Field in the playoffs for the first time since the famed "Ice Bowl" game that decided the 1967 NFL Championship ... Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain left in the first half due to dehydration.