| Detroit Free Press
There’s no good reason the Detroit Lions should have been in the position they were Sunday: Tied with 16 seconds to play, in a game they led by 21 points midway through the third quarter, against a team they absolutely had to beat.
But when Matthew Stafford trotted onto the field for the final drive, there was no sense of panic, either.
Stafford saved the Lions from choking with a Heimlich Maneuver of a drive for the second time in four weeks, marching 34 yards in three plays — with some help from a Chase Young penalty — to set up Matt Prater’s game-winning 59-yard field goal as the Lions beat Washington, 30-27, at Ford Field.
“In my time here, we’ve been in a lot of those situations where we just stay calm,” wide receiver Marvin Jones said. “We’re in the huddle and we just said, ‘Hey, we got this. Let’s get this.’ Nine says, ‘We got this. All we need is this.’ So when you literally take it play by play, you have confidence that you can get it done and we showed that today.”
CARLOS MONARREZ: Swift looks like the next Alvin Kamara in win over Washington
The Lions snapped a two-game losing streak with the win — their first since Stafford led a late touchdown drive against the Atlanta Falcons — and saved themselves the embarrassment of blowing a double-digit lead for the fourth time this season and 10th time in 41 games under embattled head coach Matt Patricia.
Washington (2-6) scored 21 unanswered points after trailing 24-3 in the third quarter, then tied the game at 27 on Dustin Hopkins’ 41-yard field goal with 16 seconds to play.
The Lions, with all three timeouts remaining, started their final drive at their own 25-yard line.
Stafford hit rookie Quintez Cephus for 10 yards on first down, then after a timeout, heaved a long pass downfield that would have gone for a touchdown had Cephus been able to track the ball.
Young, the No. 2 pick of the draft, was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, giving the Lions 15 yards and new life at the 50-yard line with 6 seconds on the clock.
Stafford threw a quick pass to Jones for 9 yards, who dove to the turf to burn the Lions’ second timeout as Prater came onto the field for a chance at redemption.
One of the most accurate long-range kickers in NFL history, Prater had missed three of his previous five kicks of 50-plus yards this season. On Sunday, he was 3-for-3, making field goals of 53, 37 and 59 yards.
“I know I haven’t had the best year, but any time I go out, I expect to make them, and coming through in those moments for the team is always big,” Prater said. “Great job by the team for getting down there to even give us a shot at it, with however many seconds were there when we got the ball after the kickoff. So it was pretty cool.”
The Lions’ late-game heroics overshadowed a career day by rookie running back D’Andre Swift, and another poor defensive effort — at least in the second half — against one of the NFL’s worst teams.
Swift, in his first career start, amassed 149 yards from scrimmage, scored on a 15-yard pass and had a major hand in three of the Lions’ first four scoring drives.
He finished with 81 yards rushing on 16 carries, had another 68 receiving on five catches, and accounted for 46 of the Lions’ 56 yards on their first go-ahead field drive of the fourth quarter.
“The dude is a crazy playmaker,” Jones said. “We’ve known that ever since he’s been here and he touches the ground. When the ball is in his hands, even like with somebody like me, I have to keep blocking. I have to keep blocking because you know somehow he’s going to come out of it by making a move, or running somebody over, or jumping over somebody. He’s electric and he’s great to watch.”
Swift had three carries for 32 yards on the Lions’ first touchdown drive, and two catches for 41 yards on first scoring drive of the second half
His touchdown catch midway through the third quarter gave the Lions (4-5) a seemingly comfortable 24-3 lead, only to have Washington follow with three long scoring drives.
J.D. McKissic scored Washington’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run with 5:28 left in the third quarter, one play after Washington converted a fourth-and-13.
The Lions went three-and-out on their next possession, and Washington followed with an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown capped by Antonio Gibson’s 2-yard run. Gibson scored his second touchdown on a 5-yard run with 6:15 to play to set the stage for the late-game dramatics.
“We were being productive on offense (in the first half), it was just happening quick,” Patricia said. “And then from that, I was getting worried that we were out there (too long on defense) and we were trying to rotate some personnel and sub some guys just to make sure that we didn’t run into an issue there. … Give credit to them for what they did in the second half. We obviously have to be better, but obviously, just get the win.”
Lions cornerback Desmond Trufant committed two penalties to keep alive Washington’s late field goal drive. He was called for pass interference on a fourth-and-4, when he tried to jump a quick slant pass to Terry McLaurin, and flagged for defensive holding three plays later, on third-and-10.
Washington quarterback Alex Smith threw six straight incompletions at one point on the drive, not including the plays that drew penalty flags.
Smith, making his first start since a gruesome leg injury almost two years ago, completed 38 of 55 passes for 390 yards.
Stafford finished 24-for-33 passing for 276 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, who won their for the first time at Ford Field since last October and remain on the fringe of playoff contention with seven games to play.
“Every game we win, we’ve got to clean stuff up,” Stafford said. “This one is no different. There’s definitely some things we can do better and it’ll help stretch the lead, but I’m just proud of our guys for fighting. A win is a win. It’s tough to win in this league, I’m never going to apologize for one. Could we play better? Yeah. But we did a nice job not turning the ball over, defense did a nice job getting some stops, our special teams was nails as it always is, so that was great.”