DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford made up for a shaky day with some clutch plays.
Stafford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left, lifting the Detroit Lions to a 27-23 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. He led an 80-yard, nine-play, game-winning drive that included three passes of at least 18 yards.
Sam Bradford directed a go-ahead drive that set up Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard field goal and put the Rams ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left. But coach Jeff Fisher’s debut ended with a loss because the Rams could not shut down Stafford in the end after slowing him down for much of the game.
A pushing and shoving incident was broken up at the end of the game by replacement officials, which included line judge Shannon Eastin — who became the first woman to officiate an NFL regular-season game.
Stafford had three interceptions before halftime for the first time in his four seasons. The Rams scored 13 points off Stafford’s turnovers, including Cortland Finnegan’s 31-yard return for a TD that gave them a 13-7 lead late in the first half.
Stafford finished 32 of 48 for 355 yards. One of his interceptions was made at the goal line by rookie Janoris Jenkins.
Detroit’s All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 111 yards, including an 18-yard grab just before Smith was wide open for his second TD of the game. On the game-winning play, the Rams double-covered Johnson and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar seemed to lose sight of Smith.
Bradford was 17 of 25 for 198 yards with a TD, a 23-yard pass to Brandon Gibson early in the fourth quarter. Danny Amendola caught five passes for 70 yards.
The Rams were determined to use a conservative game plan by running Steven Jackson a lot, but he gained just 53 yards on 21 carries, and they couldn’t take enough time off the clock on their next-to-last drive to prevent Stafford from getting the ball back.
Bradford was hit by defensive end Cliff Avril on the game’s last play, and some pushing and shoving at the end didn’t get out of hand in part because the officials quickly separated the players.
St. Louis lost two starting offensive linemen during the game. Offensive tackle Rodger Saffold was carted off the field with a neck injury in the fourth quarter and center Scott Wells had a foot injury during the game.