Five reasons the Lions beat Washington, 30-27

DETROIT — Matt Prater kicked a 59-yard field goal with no time left to give the Detroit Lions a 30-27 win at Ford Field on Sunday.

If there had been a stadium full of fans they would have been on the edge of their seats for the final two minutes.

 “We got it close enough for the most clutch kicker in football to come out there and do his thing,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “So, I was extremely happy for Matt Prater and that operation to get it up and through the uprights. I mean, 59-yarder to win it, that’s what that guy loves to do and what we love having him for. He’s a special guy in those moments and I was really proud of him today for that.”

The Lions (4-5) snapped a two-game losing streak. It was the Lions’ first win at home since Oct. 27, 2019. Washington fell to 2-7.

Detroit held a 24-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but then the Lions defense allowed three straight touchdowns to knot the game up. Still Detroit was able to hold on for the victory.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. Matt Prater, who had been a little inconsistent lately, came through with the winning 59-yard field goal which tied his longest while in Detroit. He also kicked another 37-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave the Lions a 27-24 lead. It was Prater’s second game-winning field goal this season and the 10th since he joined the Lions. He also kicked the winner at Arizona in Week 3. It was his 100th game in a Lions uniform. He said his mental approach to the game-winner was the same as any other kick. “Just go out and swing hard and hope it goes straight type of thing. I don’t need any more pressure on myself or think that it’s anything more than it is. It’s just a field goal,’’ Prater said. “Like I said in the past, 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 and 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.”

2. Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes and managed the last-minute drive when Detroit got the ball with 16 seconds left and tied 27-27 at their own 25. He threw a 10-yard pass to Quintin Cephus, next play was incomplete to Cephus but Washington called for roughing the passer which got the Lions to the 50 with 6 seconds left. Stafford threw a short pass to Marvin Jones Jr.. Time out was called with 3 seconds left. Then Prater kicked the 59-yarder. Stafford finished 24 of 33 with 276 yards and a 127.8 quarter rating.  “There are definitely some things we can do better and it’ll help stretch the lead, but I’m just proud of our guys for fighting,’’ Stafford said. “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.”

3. Running back D’Andre Swift got the start and proved that he was worth it. He had 16 carries for 81 yards and five catches for 68 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown catch. His runs of 5, 11 and 16 yards help set up the opening touchdown, a 55-yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr. “He did a great job when he had the opportunity to make plays today, he made some great ones. Some huge runs there in the second half, a big catch for a touchdown as well,’’ Stafford said. “I was really happy with the way he played. I know he had a bunch of fun out there running around and making plays. The more guys we can get doing that, I don’t care who it is, the better, but he definitely had a great day and I’m proud of him.”

4. The Lions defense, which has been problematic in past weeks, held on when it counted most late in the fourth quarter. They have work to do, no question. It was a start. Think baby steps. Alex Smith, in his first start since 2018, threw for 390 yards often to wide-open targets. 

5. The coaching gets the blame when they lose so they should get a little credit here for pulling off the win. Somehow the players keep a positive mindset even though the start to the season has not been what they envisioned. And despite letting Washington back in the  game in the second half, they persevered. So that’s something.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions) 

(Next up: The Lions play at Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22.)

Five things to watch as Lions face Washington

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Detroit Lions (3-5) have a chance to win their first game at Ford Field in more than a year. That win against the Giants on Oct. 27, 2019, seems like a very long time ago.

On Sunday the Lions  face Washington (2-6) which has lost six of its last seven.

“We know how dangerous they are; they’ve got some great players. Just like every week, they’ve got a lot of good guys out there.,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

Washington quarterback Alex Smith, the best comeback story in the NFL this season, will make his first start since 2018 when his leg was brutally broken. He fought infection and went through multiple surgeries to get back to football. He’s made appearances this season (including last week when he threw 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions), but this will be his first start.

“I think, obviously, Alex Smith is an amazing story. Everything that he’s been through and his ability to battle through all that and step out onto that field and perform, it’s pretty amazing,’’ Patricia said.

This is a big game for both teams to try to get back on track.

Here are five things to watch:

1. The Lions offense struggled last week without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and they will be without him again on Sunday. It could be a double-whammy with tight end T.J. Hockenson (toe) who is questionable to play. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can step up in different situations, and certainly, a lot of guys that can produce. … Whatever the design is will be for whether we have them or don’t have them, and then we’ve just got to go out and execute those plays,’’ Patricia said.

2. For the good news, Matthew Stafford was able to practice this week unlike last week when he was quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19. He’s thrown three interceptions in the past two games which has to stop and he knows that.

3. The Lions run game has been inconsistent all season, although seemed to bounce back in the loss last week at Minnesota. Rookie D’Andre Swift ran for 64 of the 129 total. “Running the ball is great. It’s a great part of this game. Certainly it’s something we want to do. We didn’t do it well a couple weeks ago. I thought we got back on track a little bit last week with it, and that’s where we have to continue to go,’’ Patricia said.

4. Stopping the run just did not happen last week. Part of it was the magic of Dalvin Cook (22 carries, 206 yards), but much of it was on the Lions’ defense which didn’t appear ready even though they knew what was coming in Cook. The Vikings finished with 275 rushing yards. Enough said. Washington’s run game, led by Antonio Gibson, should not be as much of a threat. He had just 6 carries for 20 yards last week in the loss to the Giants.

5. Coaching has been an issue and it’s not just Patricia. Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin took full credit for having 10 players out on the field on defense in each of the last two games. “So when you have 10 guys out there that – obviously there was some miscommunication at some point on somewhere down the line and that’s it. It’s poor coaching,’’ Undlin said this week. “I met with the whole defense (Monday), and I told them exactly the same thing. We’re trying to be critical of these guys, we put a lot of pressure on these guys all the time. Then when we as coaches can’t get 11 guys out there – that’s on us.’’

PREDICTION: Washington 28, Lions 24