DETROIT - Matthew Stafford was flat on his back, getting his left shoulder evaluated on the sideline by the Detroit Lions medical staff.
The Cleveland Browns called a timeout and gave the rookie a chance to get back in the game.
Stafford threw his fifth touchdown pass from 1 yard to Brandon Pettigrew and Jason Hanson’s extra point with no time on the clock gave Detroit a thrilling 38-37 win over Cleveland on Sunday.
“That was wild,” Stafford said with ice strapped around his shoulder.
The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft became the first rookie to throw five TDs in a game since Ray Buivid for the Bears in 1937, according to STATS LLC.
Detroit was given the untimed play because safety Hank Poteat was called for pass interference in the end zone when Stafford heaved a desperation attempt.
“Once the quarterback rotated out of the pocket and they were in the end zone, you try to force the receiver out of bounds,” Poteat said. “That’s what I tried to do.”
Stafford was hit after his throw to the end zone and replaced by Daunte Culpepper. But he was able to return because the Browns stopped the game with their timeout.
“He just said, ‘I’m ready,”’ Detroit coach Jim Schwartz recalled. “He could walk.
“There was no one who was going to stop him from going back on the field. He had come way too far in that game to not finish it.”
Schwartz said X-rays showed Stafford’s collarbone wasn’t broken, adding more tests are needed.
“Matt’s best play of the day might have been eluding four team doctors to get back on the field,” Schwartz joked.
Stafford threw three of his TDs in the first half to rally Detroit from a 24-3 deficit.
He was 26 of 43 for 422 yards, the most by a Lion in a win. He threw two interceptions, the second of which looked like it might doom Detroit. Stafford tried to throw long to Calvin Johnson, who was triple-covered, and Brodney Pool picked it off in the end zone with 3:49 left.
The Lions (2-8) snapped a six-game losing streak and avoided being the NFL’s first team to endure a 2-32 stretch.
Stafford started the winning drive with 1:46 remaining and no timeouts. He got a huge assist by the penalty that went against the Browns (1-9).
“I’m just so upset that my team fought so hard late in the game to put us in a situation to win and it came down to the penalty that I caused,” Poteat said.
Brady Quinn threw four TDs — surpassing his previous career total — and connected with Michael Gaines with 5:44 left to put the Browns ahead after helping them score a franchise-record 24 points in the first quarter.
The former Notre Dame star could only hope what he did was enough.
“I was praying and hoping that our defense could get a stop for us,” he said.
The Lions and Browns have been the NFL’s worst teams since 1999, but they combined to play an entertaining game.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“We had plenty opportunities and at the end we just couldn’t close it out,” Cleveland coach Eric Mangini said. “I’m disappointed for them and I’m sick about the outcome.”
It’s not of much consolation, but Cleveland showed a pulse on offense after going three games without a TD and surpassing its season high in points before the first quarter ended.
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