"I was yelling that I was going to spike the ball," Stafford recalled. "But their linebackers were just standing there."
The Cowboys weren't just standing around letting Johnson make catch after catch, but he made them look helpless as he tied Hall of Famer Lance Alworth's mark for 220-plus yards receiving in a game by doing it for a fifth time.
Johnson almost broke an NFL record, and could celebrate the feat because of a comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit that some people who entered Ford Field didn't see because they had left.
"Even our fans didn't think we could pull this one out," he said. "They were leaving, but we knew we could do it."
Johnson's total trails only the 336 yards receiving Flipper Anderson had for the Los Angeles Rams against New Orleans on Nov. 26, 1989 in a game that went into overtime. Anderson had 296 yards receiving in regulation.
The Cowboys dared Detroit to throw to Johnson with a lot of one-on-one coverage. They usually asked cornerback Brandon Carr to do the improbable by defending him by himself, and sometimes attempted to slow him down with a zone.
"He had his way," Carr said. "And, we couldn't find a way to keep him from rolling."
The Lions (5-3) overcame four turnovers without forcing a turnover, becoming the first team to do that and win since New England did against Miami in 2007, according to STATS.
On their last drive, Stafford threw a 22-yard pass to Johnson to set up the winning score. The quarterback caught at least some Cowboys by surprise.
"He kind of caught us off-guard," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher acknowledged.