Lions Team Grades: Detroit Fires On All Cylinders To Stun Washington
By Michael Ferro
The Detroit Lions had a tough test ahead of them when they took the field in Detroit on Sunday against a red hot Washington Redskins team. In keeping with the spirit of this season, the Lions came out strong, particularly on defense, and kept pressuring Washington QB Kirk Cousins. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford had a lot on his shoulders with running backs Dwayne Washington, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick out once again with injuries (Stafford himself would have two big runs for 32 yards - one yard shy of being the Lions' top rusher).
The Lions had some luck in their favor with balls bounced off defenders and fumbles in key field positions. They needed to capitalize to snatch a win from the Redskins and in the end, Stafford and the offense saved the day with a dramatic touchdown in the final minute to earn Detroit its third-straight victory by a score of 20-17.
As usual, Matthew Stafford was electric connecting with wide receiver Golden Tate. The QB was on point for most of the first half, but dropped balls kept the Lions offense struggling to find a groove (Detroit leads the league in dropped balls). Still, Tate and WR Marvin Jones (who exploded back into fans' hearts with a major 52-yard reception) proved they could keep drives alive.
Washington has struggled against the run throughout the season, so Detroit not having their top running backs looked promising for the Redskins. That prediction rang true as Washington bottled up the Detroit running game. Regardless, Tate and Jones kept the ball moving effectively through the air.
When it mattered, Matthew Stafford proved he was one of the league's best, marching the offense down the field with one minute left and tossing a perfect 18-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to win the game.
The Lions defense carried the momentum from the previous week into the game with a big sack and a recovered fumble in the end zone to shut down a likely-scoring drive early. Throughout the game, the Lions defense kept pressure on Cousins and the offense.
Detroit recovered another fumble late in the third to put the Lions in prime scoring position; though the offense couldn't capitalize (they settled for a field goal). One thing that should be noted is that while Cousins was on point with a high completion percentage throughout the game, the Lions defense kept the Redskins out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter when Washington finally scored (the Redskins averaged 26 points per game heading into Detroit).
The Lions defense faced their biggest test of the game when the Redskins got the ball back with only five minutes left and down by three points. Unfortunately, Detroit couldn't hold Cousins back and the QB ran in an 18-yard score to give the Redskins a 17-13 lead.
Special Teams: B
In the first quarter, on-point kicker Matt Prater missed an early 49-yard field goal for the Lions after a high snap for the hold. The special teams came back in the second quarter with an easy 43-yard field goal put through the uprights by Prater, though, giving the Lions the first score of the game and another 29-yard field goal early in the fourth for a 13-3 lead.
After some hard-fought victories, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell has done an even job of keeping his players ready for each new test. Detroit showed notable improvement in morale during their win over the Los Angeles Rams, never quitting before the final whistle. Jim Caldwell said before the game that his team had "become comfortable with being uncomfortable," and that looks to be true for the most part.
Detroit has won their last three games in dramatic fashion and has kept each game close regardless of the final outcome. Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter have shaped Matthew Stafford and the offense into a cool and confident machine over the last three games.
Up Next: On Sunday, October 30, the Lions travel to Houston to take on the Texans at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Born and bred in Detroit, Michael A. Ferro was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award and received a degree in Creative Writing from Michigan State University. He now resides in rural Ann Arbor. Additional writing can be found at AXS.com and on twitter @MichaelFerro.
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