DETROIT - Dan Carpenter tried to channel Rory McIlroy when he attempted a game-winning field goal Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills kicker lined up a 58-yarder and split the uprights with four seconds left, giving his team a 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, where the visitors carried defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz off the field on their shoulders. Schwartz was fired as head coach of the Lions in January.
“It's like a birdie putt, you don't want to ever leave it short,” said Carpenter, who made three of four attempts. “I hit it really well and it went straight down the middle.”
Carpenter's clutch kick came 17 seconds after Detroit kicker Alex Henery missed his third field goal of the half, a 50-yard try. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins made a juggling, 20-yard catch to move Carpenter at the cusp of his range.
Henery, the second kicker this season for the Lions after rookie Nate Freese struggled to find his accuracy, took what sounded like a warning from head coach Jim Caldwell, who said “this is the big leagues, plan and simple. If I don't do my job … the same thing will happen.”
Henery said “I blame myself. As a man I stand up. As the kicker I have to make those kicks and I'm not looking to blame anyone else.”
Carpenter's kick completed a grinding rally from a 14-0 deficit.
“We're fighting through adversity,” Carpenter said. “It's really hard to win in this league. It's really hard to win anywhere but it's that much harder to win on the road. A lot of games come down to three points or seven points or less. We're finding ways to win and fighting through that adversity, maybe a bad play or a negative play. We're able to bounce back from it and find a way to win.”
The Bills also appeared to find their quarterback. Journeyman Kyle Orton, who only started one game the past two seasons as Dallas' backup quarterback, completed 30 of 43 yards for 308 yards and a touchdown in his first start of this season for Buffalo (3-2). Orton replaced 2013 No. 1 draft pick E.J. Manuel, who was benched.
“He's a leader,” Watkins said. “The whole time we're going through adversity, he's in the huddle, going crazy and being Kyle. He definitely knows what he's doing as far as breaking down defensive coverages. He knows what he's doing with the ball.”
Running back Fred Jackson gained 50 yards on 11 carries and caught seven passes for 58 yards for the Bills and Watkins caught seven passes for 87 yards. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus recorded a career-high three sacks.
It was a case of deja vu for many of the Lions, who lost to Baltimore last December on a last-second, 61-yard field goal.
“Any time you miss opportunities, it's frustrating, whether it's in the kicking game or on offense or defense,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “We all had our hand in this one. You win and lose as a team. We all had plays that we could have done better at.”
Detroit cornerback Rashean Mathis had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Stafford completed 18 of 31 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked six times under the schemes designed by Schwartz. Bills players said Schwartz, back in minicamp, requested they carry him off the field at Detroit in the event of a victory.
“This game really meant a lot to him,” Dareus said of Schwartz.
Wide receiver Golden Tate caught seven passes for 134 yards and a touchdown for Detroit (3-2).
Hobbled by a right ankle injury, All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson was limited to one reception for seven yards. Johnson re-aggravated the injury on the third-down catch and did not return.
Lions running back Reggie Bush was held to 13 yards on six carries before exiting with an ankle injury during the second half.
Those injuries severely hampered Detroit's normally dynamic attack.
“We had our limitations, obviously with personnel, but that was a good defense that we played,” Stafford said. “They're well-coached and they had a good scheme coming in. They have a good front and a good back end. They're very well-rounded.”
Buffalo was penalized nine times in the first half, helping the Lions take a 14-3 halftime lead.
Carpenter connected on a 25-yard field goal late in the third to make it 14-6.
Buffalo tied it with 9:25 remaining on a 10-play, 74-yard drive, highlighted by Orton's 42-yard pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Orton found backup tight end Chris Gregg open in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown and Jackson ran for the 2-point conversion.
NOTES: Bills CB Ron Brooks suffered a neck injury when he was upended while covering a punt midway through the first quarter. He left the field on a stretcher and was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation. … Buffalo played without Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams (knee). Detroit was depleted on offense with the absences of RBs Joique Bell (concussion) and Theo Riddick (hamstring) along with TE Joseph Fauria (ankle). … Detroit CB Rashean Mathis' defensive score was the fourth touchdown of his career but first since 2008, when he played for Jacksonville. … Bills QB Kyle Orton is 5-0 against the Lions. He won all of his previous four starts against Detroit when he played for Chicago. … Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had a 29-51 record as Detroit's head coach the past five seasons. … The series was tied at 4-4-1 and the teams hadn't met in the regular season since the Bills' 14-12 victory on Nov. 14, 2010.