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.)

Lions QB Matthew Stafford among the best halfway through the season

Unlike the Lions, Matthew Stafford is having quite a season.

The Lions quarterback has thrived in the new offense created by coordinator Darrell Bevell. Of course, he’s got a tandem of wide receivers in Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay who have combined for 13 touchdown catches. And newcomer Danny Amendola has stepped in and been a good fit, averaging 12.1 yards per catch.

Stafford’s numbers are starting to draw attention across the league even as the Lions have faded, losing four of their last five.

He leads the NFL in passing yards per game (312.4) and yards per pass (8.6). Stafford’s 19 touchdowns are second only to Russell Wilson (22) who has played one more game. He’s fourth (2,499) in total passing yards. He has the most completions of 20-plus yards wit 41 and is the NFL leader with at least 3 touchdown passes in 5 games.

Whenever he’s asked about his game day accomplishments, the always humble Stafford says he would trade them in for a win. 

Next test for the Lions (3-4-1) is Sunday at the Chicago Bears (3-5). 

“I’ve always had the ultimate respect for Matt Stafford. Some of the throws that he’s made over his career are just ridiculous. I mean there are not many players in the NFL that can make the side-arm throws that he does on the run, running left throwing right, just putting it where no one else can get it,’’ Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a conference call this week. 

“He’s tough, he’s a competitor, and when he’s back there at the quarterback position, he’s scary because he can make any throw and you always have a chance with him,’’ Nagy added.

The Bears’ defense is its strength this season just like the Lions’ offense which has carried the team this season (although not quite enough).

Historically, Stafford has played well against Chicago.

He ranks fifth in career passing touchdowns against the Bears with 28 TDs in 18 games. He’s in good company in this category behind three Hall of Famers, and one future HOFer. First is Brett Favre with 60 in 36 games, second is Aaron Rodgers with 46 in 22 games, third is Fran Tarkenton with 40 in 28 games, fourth is Johnny Unitas with 33 in 23 games. Also, Stafford is fourth in most passing yards (4,741 in 18 games) behind Favre Tarkenton, and Rodgers.

Last season, he threw 21 touchdown passes in 16 games and now he stands at 19 at the halfway point. The difference? 

“I think we’ve done a nice job in the play-action game, making some big plays – those guys are making great plays down the field,’’ Stafford said. “The guys up front are giving me time to get it down there. I think we’ve done a nice job on third down staying on the field, which helps. We’re getting more plays and those guys on the outside are making great plays.”

Stafford’s no-look throws have been studied, tweeted and retweeted. He has two in the loss at the Raiders. It’s not something he has worked on.

“No, that’s full feel. I’m not like working on that in the offseason or anything. It’s more just feeling it in the game, trying to see as much as I can possibly see, and then obviously trying to get to the ball to our guys with space and let them go work,’’ Stafford said.

In his 11th season, he has plenty of trust in himself to make the unorthodox throws. “I think it’s a lot of trust, obviously – trust in what I’m seeing, trust in what they’re going to do when I put it out there,’’ Stafford said. “Those guys are doing a great job of catching it and coming down with it. They always know to be on their toes and be ready for the ball.”

He’s nearly on pace for a second 5,000-yard season. His first was in 2011. He’s one of just five NFL quarterbacks who have passed for more than 5,000 yards. The list includes Drew Brees who has done it five times, along with Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. Again, Stafford keeps good company.

Now if the Lions defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL, would step up.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

At midway point: Detroit Lions defense a mess, run game ineffective

At the midway point, the Detroit Lions have not been the team we thought they might be. 

After a disheartening 31-24 loss at the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, this team appears to be headed south. While not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, chances are not looking good. The Lions (3-4-1) have lost four of their last five games.

The biggest issue is the defense.

Cornerback Darius Slay’s comments after the game were eye-opening.

“It’s not about scheme. We get the same looks every week. This league is a copycat league so we aren’t seeing any new plays being drawn up,’’ Slay said. “Everybody knows if we play this team, they run this. It’s the same problem so we just have to fix it.’’

The Pro Bowl cornerback said with 11 players on the field there are 11 problems to be fixed.

“We have a great team and all the right pieces but it’s just not sticking together right now,’’ Slay said. “We might be putting the pieces in the wrong spots so we need to change something.”

It’s not just the 11 guys on the field, it’s the coaching too.

Of course, coach Matt Patricia took blame for the loss. 

“We have to coach it better. In general, it starts with me, I have got to coach it better,’’ Patricia said. “I have to get the team ready to go so that we can play consistently. I don’t think we played consistent here today. Give the Raiders credit, they made more plays than we did. They made them when they needed  them, and we didn’t.’’

Patricia puts it on his shoulders, he always does. That’s good. But then nothing changes and, obviously, that’s not good. 

The Lions defense ranks 31st in the NFL in yards allowed. They give up 424.1 yards per game. Not only has the defense not improved this season, it’s gotten significantly worse. At the end of 2018 which was Patricia’s first season, the Lions defense was ranked 10th in yards allowed per game (335). When the 2017 season, Jim Caldwell’s last, was over the defense was giving up 355.8 yards per game.

GM Bob Quinn has put together a defensive roster that suits the needs of Patricia. Is it perfect? No, but the talent on the field should be better than 31st.

On Sunday, the Raiders ran for 171 yards — that’s the most yardage the Lions defense has given up in a game this season. So there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

“They are a big run team. They have a great back (Josh Jacobs). He’s a tough guy to tackle, and we missed a lot of tackles out there, too,’’ Patricia said. “I think that we didn’t finish some of those run fits very well.’’

Halfway through, the defense has been the biggest issue but the perennially bad run game is also ineffective. Kerryon Johnson is on injured reserve but no excuses. Running backs get hurt in the NFL, quality backups are essential.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s numbers are gaudy. He’s thrown 19 touchdown passes. Only Russell Wilson has thrown more (22), but Wilson has played nine games and Stafford only eight. 

Stafford is fourth in the NFL in passing yardage (2,499) behind Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.

But Stafford can’t put the whole offense on his shoulders, he needs a run game. Plus, he needs to be put in the best situations. With Sunday’s game on the line, fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., who can both catch in traffic, were on the sidelines. Stafford didn’t make the play to tight end Logan Thomas (that play call still a mystery) but it is not on the quarterback.

It’s on the coaches, just like many of the Lions’ woes.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)