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Detroit Lions lean on calm, cool quarterback Matthew Stafford to pull out 23-22 win at Atlanta

Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, front, catches a pass over Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell on Sunday in Atlanta. (AP photo)

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford had the ball and Matt Prater knew it was time to start kicking.

Good call.

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley gave one of the NFL’s best comeback quarterbacks a shot to lead the Detroit Lions to victory, and Stafford took advantage.

Stafford stepped up in a collapsing pocket and connected with T.J. Hockenson for an 11-yard touchdown pass as time expired and Prater made a 48-yard extra point after a penalty, lifting the Lions to a 23-22 win at Atlanta on Sunday.

Gurley scored by mistake with 1:04 left, getting into the end zone instead of coming up short to set up a short, go-ahead field goal with little time left on the clock.

The gaffe set up Stafford to lead the 36th game-winning drive of his career. Since he was selected No. 1 overall in 2009, Stafford leads the league with 30 fourth-quarter comebacks.

“Football in general sometimes is organized chaos,” Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “The guys that are calm in those situations are obviously guys that have been there before. Matthew Stafford’s been there a lot of times, and is really just phenomenal in those situations.”

The latest comeback gave Stafford bragging rights over his close friend, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

“No official wager was made,” Stafford said. “But I mean, I’ll bring it up.”

Stafford became the second quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw two game-winning passes with no time remaining in a career, pulling off the feat for the first time since his rookie year.

“As soon as we got the ball, I was just getting ready because I expected to kick,” Prater recalled. “It’s always fun to watch Matthew in those moments.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Lions have allowed a total of 110 yards rushing in their past two games after ranking last in the league against the run, allowing 170-plus yards on the ground through four games.

Defensive linemen Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, John Penisini and Da’Shawn Hand have played key roles in the turnaround.

“Those guys have done a really good job inside anchoring that middle,” Patricia said.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Ford Field has not been friendly for the home team. The Lions are 0-2 this season in the Motor City after winning just five of 16 games at home in Patricia’s first two seasons.