The Detroit Lions, despite the retirement of Barry Sanders and mounting injuries, keep finding new heroes in a surprising ride to the top of the NFC.

In a wild shootout today, backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, a former Redskin, tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton with 28 seconds remaining, and the Lions beat St. Louis, 31-27, for their fourth straight victory.

The win pulled the Lions (6-2) even with the equally surprising Rams (6-2) atop the conference, but gives Detroit a potential tie-breaking win.

"We proved that we are for real," Lions safety Ron Rice said. "One of the best teams in the NFL just came in here and got beat."

Frerotte, who completed 12 of 16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, played the entire second half because Charlie Batch--who passed for 148 yards and a touchdown in the first half--sprained the thumb on his throwing hand.

On the winning drive, the Lions went 77 yards in 10 plays, the biggest of which was a 57-yard toss to Germane Crowell in front of Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon on fourth and 28 at the Lions 21.

"I take full responsibility," McCleon said. "I just got caught looking back at the quarterback and I lost sight of him. I should have been a lot deeper than I was."

Kurt Warner, who was 25 of 42 for 305 yards and three touchdowns, tried to bring the Rams back one last time, but was picked off by Rice with two seconds remaining.

The Rams have lost two straight after a 6-0 start.