ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Tony Romo has his first come-from-behind victory in the playoffs, a refreshing reprise for a career filled with season-ending disappointments.
The Dallas quarterback's late touchdown pass to Terrance Williams gave the Cowboys a 24-20 wild-card victory over Detroit on Sunday and sent them to Green Bay for their first postseason visit since the Packers won the Ice Bowl for the NFL championship 47 years ago.
Anyone looking for a big exhale from the 34-year-old quarterback who avoided more heartache in Dallas' first playoff game in five years, well, it's not happening.
"There is no sense of relief," said Romo, who also had a 76-yard TD toss to Williams to start the rally from an early 14-0 deficit. "Our aspirations weren't winning the division, as great as that was. And it's not just winning a playoff game, as great as that was."
The Cowboys (13-4) will play their third divisional round game under Romo against the Packers on Sunday. He lost the first two, including at home to the New York Giants during the 2007 season when Dallas was the top seed in the NFC.
"I think people appreciate Tony as having the skills that he has," owner Jerry Jones said. "I hope they see that he's made some pretty impressive plays and had big games. The only thing that will ever get them off his back totally would be to get that Super Bowl win."
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.
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 followed with a 10-yard punt.
"Not a good enough one. I'm going to leave it at that," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of the explanation he got. "I'm not going to sit up here and act like that was the play that made a difference in the game."
Things to consider after the Lions missed out on just their second playoff win of the Super Bowl era (The first was against Dallas during the 1991 season):
THE EXPLANATION: Referee Pete Morelli said the back judge threw the flag on the pass interference penalty, but the head linesman had a "better view" and thought the call should be changed. The linesman said there wasn't enough contact and that Hitchens was face-guarding, which isn't a penalty in the NFL.
"I thought it was ridiculous, to be honest," Pettigrew said. "He ran through me, pretty much, trying to get back to the ball. To me, it was obvious."
CLINCHING THE WIN: After the reversal, Romo took the Cowboys 59 yards in 11 plays, including a 21-yard pass to Jason Witten on fourth-and-6. The winner was an 8-yarder to Williams in the back of the end zone 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. Rookie 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 playing against his hometown team.
Lawrence redeemed himself on the clincher eight plays later, sacking Stafford on fourth down near midfield in the final minute.
EMOTIONAL SUH: Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had consecutive sacks in the fourth quarter after his week started with news that he would be suspended for stepping on Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in the regular-season finale. He was reinstated a day later.
He was so emotional after the loss that he left the podium in tears, only to return a minute later to finish talking about how the season suddenly ended.
"I'm speechless. ... I didn't expect this outcome," Suh said.
RESILIENT ROMO: The 34-year-old who had back surgery in December 2013 and missed one game with another back injury bounced back from a season-high six sacks to finish with 293 yards and a passer rating right in line with a franchise-best 113.2 that led the NFL in the regular season.
"I'm thrilled for him," said Jones, who gave Romo the first $100 million contract in franchise history almost two years ago.
TOUGH SLEDDING: 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. His score was set up by the only big play from Dez Bryant. The NFL leader in receiving touchdowns (16) had a 43-yard catch to inside the 10, but had just 5 yards on two other grabs.
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