Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top pick in the draft, was 7-of-14 for 114 yards with a touchdown and one interception, which was returned 42 yards by Tony Gilbert for a score. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper played the first three offensive series for the Lions.
Lions rookie running back Aaron Brown caught a touchdown pass and ran for another score.
The game began the Jim Schwartz era as Detroit head coach. The Lions were 0-16 last year.
Atlanta's Michael Turner had six carries for 63 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run.
Trailing 26-17, Brown hauled in a 45-yard TD pass from Drew Stanton with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Detroit defense forced a three-and-out and Stanton guided the Lions down the field, setting up Hanson's heroics with 3 seconds left.