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

Five reasons Lions lost to Vikings, 34-20

The first quarter set the tone for the Lions’ 34-20 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

The Lions’ offense got the ball first and went three-and-out. With the Vikings first possession they moved downfield like the Detroit defense wasn’t even there. Five plays, 67 yards and boom, touchdown run by Dalvin Cook.

At the end of that first quarter, Detroit was down 13-0. It wasn’t like the game was out of reach, but sure seemed like it.

It was the second straight loss for the Lions (3-5) while the Vikings (3-5) notched their second straight NFC North win after beating the Packers a week ago. The teams own matching records, but seem to be headed in opposite directions.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. The defense could not stop running back Dalvin Cook (22 carries, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns). In the fourth quarter Cook scored his second touchdown on a 70-yard scamper. Stopping the run was one of the keys in this matchup and the Detroit defense failed miserably. Cook ran up 163 yards on the Packers the previous week. 

2. By letting the Vikings’ run game flourish, it opened up the field for Kirk Cousins who threw for 220 yards and three touchdown passes.

3. Matthew Stafford, who didn’t practice all week because he was quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19, looked sharp in the first half, going 16 of 18 for 123 yards and a touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. After missing on a deep ball to Marvin Hall on the first play from scrimmage, he completed 16 straight passes. Then he threw two interceptions in the third quarter and after a sack early in the fourth, he was examined for a concussion and didn’t return. However good news after the game is that he passed the concussion protocol. Chase Daniel filled in with a touchdown and an interception.

4. The consistency of the offense again an issue. Some of it is on Stafford, but he had a hot first half and they only managed 10 points. The run game was 100 yards better than last week when they accumulated just 29 yards (10 from Stafford). D’Andre Swift carried 13 times for 64 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. A big difference from loss to Colts when he had six carries for 1 yard. Still, not enough.

5. Matt Patricia’s coaching once again an issue. The Lions defense was clearly not ready to play, allowing 487 total yards, the second-most they’ve given up this season. Patricia is now 12-27-1 as head coach in Detroit. Can’t see how he keeps his job, just not sure if they’ll let this season play out.

BY THE NUMBERS:  Austin Bryant blocked a punt in the third quarter and Romeo Okwara blacked another in the fourth quarter. It marked the first time since 1977 that the Lions had blocked punts in back-to-back games. Miles Killebrew blocked one last week. … The Lions were 2-5 (40 percent) in red zone efficiency while the Vikings were 3-4 (75 percent). Matt Prater went 2-of-3 missing a 46-yard field goal attempt. … Time of possession went to Detroit: 32:49 to 27:11. … Detroit only had 3 penalties (37 yards) while the Vikings had 9 (69 yards).

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)