Stafford leads Lions back late for 20-17 win over Washington
By Matt Urben
The Lions pulled out another game-winning drive to beat the Redskins, 20-17.
Matthew Stafford was quiet for most of the game, but he drove the length of the field in the final minute and threw a TD pass with 16 seconds left to give Detroit a 20-17 win over the Redskins. In a game that was mostly a defensive battle, it came down to great clock-management by Coach Caldwell – something fans don’t consider to be his strong suit. His ‘rollover minute’ timeout strategy paid off, as Detroit seemed both comfortable and confident during the final drive that won the game over a good Redskins team.
After a 1-3 start, Detroit has reeled off three straight wins to get to a winning record (4-3). Cousins and Stafford had a nice duel, but Detroit’s defense was the difference for most of the game. The Lions played a clean game from start to finish. Detroit’s offensive line had a fine day for the most part, particularly the interior line. Tahir Whitehead was outstanding and the Lions got good pressure up front from their defensive line. So, kick off your shoes, enjoy the win, and read my quarter-by-quarter notes from the game below.
Detroit received to start the game and Zach Zenner got his second consecutive start at running back. Boldin couldn’t convert 3-and-2, going out of bounds just shy of the first and Detroit punted. Lions linebacker Armonty Bryant sacked Redskins QB Kirk Cousins with the help of some great pressure from Ziggy Ansah. Kerry Hyder forced a rushed throw on the next play to end the drive for Washington. After failing to get a first down on the first drive, Stafford hit Golden Tate for a big gain to start the second drive. On 3rd and long, the ball ricocheted off of the head of a Redskins corner, tipped up into the air and Tate was able to catch it for the first down.
Shortly after, a dropped ball by Tate on third down led to a missed Matt Prater field goal. Washington got it back and moved the ball efficiently, running with Jones and then connecting on a pretty play-action pass to Vernon Davis. The Redskins moved right into scoring range but Matt Jones fumbled the ball and Lions safety Tavon Wilson recovered in the back of the end zone. Lions take over on offense to end the first.
END OF FIRST: Detroit-0, Washington-0.
Detroit hit on a screen pass to Justin Forsett, then he popped off back-to-back 9-yard runs. Matthew Stafford eluded a sack, scrambled to his right and fired the ball to a wide-open Andre Roberts – who dropped it. Detroit rebounded with a 27-yard completion on a beautifully executed screen to Golden Tate. Lions’ drive stalls and they have to settle for a 43-yard field goal. 3-0 Lions. Washington takes over and RB Chris Thompson takes a pitch up the right sideline for a nice gain to start their drive. Rafael bush sacks Kirk cousins on first down. On the next play, Darius Slay appears to hurt his leg, possibly hamstring, and goes out.
Lions hold Redskins to a field goal attempt and their kicker, Hopkins, hits it off the post for the miss. Detroit gets it back but a Stafford sack quickly ends the drive. The Lions punted back to the Redskins with around three minutes left in the half. Washington mixes it up with some runs from Chris Thompson and quick passes to Vernon Davis to get in field-goal range, nearing the end of the half. Washington kicks a 38-yard field goal to tie it at three, as the half expires.
HALFTIME: Detroit-3, Washington-3.
Washington received to open the second half. With quick passes and some short, effective runs, they were able to get to midfield. A couple of false starts stalled the Redskins’ drive around the 45, and they punt it back to Detroit. Stafford scrambled for 18-yards on 2nd down and the Lions get out to their own 34-yard line. Marvin Jones makes an unbelievable 52-yard catch with Josh Norman literally draped all over him. It was a blatant pass interference on Norman and Jones somehow still caught it. Norman left with an apparent concussion.
Jones caught an 11-yarder to get near the goal line and Zach Zenner punched it in for his first career TD. Detroit takes a 10-3 lead, midway through the third. Washington’s drive was killed by another miscue. Cousins’ feet got tripped up during the handoff and he fumbled while falling down. After Detroit took over, a shovel pass to Golden Tate went for a first down and more to get Detroit into field goal range. Anquan Boldin caught it over the middle on 3rd and 6 for another first down.
END OF 3RD QUARTER: Detroit-10, Washington-3.
A holding penalty backed up Detroit, but a Tate catch got them right back to the nine yard line. Stafford scrambled, fell, got back up, and threw a dangerous ball that went incomplete. Detroit kicked a field goal and went up 13-3. Washington moved the ball well as they had all day with Cousins to get into field goal range. After what should have been an interception thrown by Cousins, he made a nice throw under heavy pressure to Vernon Davis, who took it to the goal line. A play-action throw to Kelly for a Redskins TD made it 13-10, Detroit, with eight minutes left in the quarter. Detroit took over. Stafford hit Marvin Jones on second and six, for a first down. A few plays later Stafford takes a sack, though, and the Lions punt.
Cousins made a couple of nice throws and after a Chris Thompson run for a first down, they were already nearing field-goal range. Cousins, while falling down, makes a nice read to complete it to Thompson. On the next play, with just over a minute left, Cousins took an option run to the right for 19 yards and a go-ahead touchdown to go up 17-13. Lions take over with three timeouts and a minute left in the game. Stafford patiently hits Marvin Jones on the deep crossing route, then hurries up and scrambles for another first down.
Detroit calls a timeout with 38 seconds left at the Redskins 37-yard line. Stafford hits Andre Roberts – who makes an unbelievable catch – on a throw that was pretty high, to get another Lions 1st down and time out, with 31 seconds left. Stafford, on third and 10, hits Anquan Boldin, who then barreled into the end zone for the touchdown. The Lions take the lead with 16 seconds left, 20-17. Tahir Whitehead nearly knocked Vernon Davis’ head off as he attempted to pitch it on the final play, and ended the game. Detroit, after a 1-3 start, is now 4-3.
FINAL SCORE: Detroit-20, Washington-17
3 STARS OF THE GAME
3. Tahir Whitehead:
Whitehead was flying around the ball all game, including demolishing Vernon Davis on the hook-and-latter attempt at the end of the game. He was impressive in coverage and helping to shut down Matt Jones up the middle. Whitehead had 12 tackles and 1 pass deflection. Several of the defensive lineman played well, but he stood out the most in an impressive Lions defensive effort.
2. Anquan Boldin
Boldin had the play of the game when, with 22 seconds left, he caught a ball around the five and took it into the end zone like a man possesed. Bodlin has been pure gold since signing as a free agent. He finished with 3 catches for 28 yards and a TD. I know, Tate and Jones each had more productive days, but Boldin had two absolutely clutch, critical catches.
1. Matthew Stafford
Stafford was efficient all day, but with a typical “same old Lions” blown lead late in the fourth quarter, he put his comeback cape for the third straight week and – with franchise-quarterback precision – scored late to give the team another last-second win. I think most of us expected him to fall short, just as his national hype has been picking up, but he was as clutch as ever. Expect to hear about him this week, perhaps even louder than last week when he was called one of the best QBs in football by NFL Network’s Peter Schrager. He was 18-29 for 266 yards and 1 TD, for a 103.5 rating.
Follow SideLion’s Matt Urben on Twitter @MatUrben88