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RB D’Andre Swift: Swift had a fantastic day, rushing for 81 yards on 16 carries and catching five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. More impressive than the numbers, Swift showed patience and vision as a runner and wowed with the open-field ability that made him so coveted in April’s draft. With seven games left, the Lions would be fools not to lean heavily upon Swift at the running back position.
K Matt Prater: Prater’s struggles in the first half of the season were well documented as he missed five kicks — three of them from 50-plus yards — in the Lions’ first eight games. On Sunday, Prater was 3-for-3 on field goals and drilled a 59-yarder to win as time expired. He made a game-winning field goal earlier this season against the Arizona Cardinals and a long extra point to beat the Atlanta Falcons, so no one thought his clutch gene had disappeared. Still, it’s good to see Prater get back on track after he had so reliable for so long.
The offensive line: The Lions have gotten solid play from their offensive line most of the season, but Sunday’s performance deserves special mention. Facing a Washington defensive line that boasts five first-round picks and ranks among the leaders in sacks, the Lions kept Matthew Stafford out of harm’s way most of the day. Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow are the leaders of what’s turning into a pretty good group.
RB Adrian Peterson: More Swift means less Peterson, and given the way the offense looked with Swift on the field, it’s hard to imagine Peterson regaining his starting role going forward. Peterson had just four carries Sunday and did not make his first appearance until early in the second quarter. He ran hard when he was in, but is looking at limited opportunities in the coming weeks as he’s neither as versatile nor as explosive as his rookie counterpart.
CB Jeff Okudah: As with Peterson, Okudah’s spot on this list is more about his role and usage than his play Sunday. With the game on the line and Washington driving for what turned out to be the game-tying field goal, the Lions played Amani Oruwariye and Desmond Trufant at the outside cornerback positions. Okudah saw plenty of playing time Sunday, and will going forward, but it’s clear coaches still have trust issues to work out with their first-round draft pick.
WR Quintez Cephus: OK, so I was wrong. Last week, I advocated for Cephus to get more playing time, and on Sunday he showed he’s still very much a work in progress. Cephus dropped a laser of a throw from Stafford that hit him square in the hands, and he could not track a well-placed deep ball late that what would have gone for the game-winning touchdown. Chase Young bailed out the Lions with a personal foul on that play that helped set up Prater’s 59-yard kick, but if not for that penalty, Cephus might have woke up the goat of another Lions loss this morning.