The Redskins opened the game with three corners and one safety on the field, allowing them to cover three receiver sets while keeping their entire front seven on the field to help them against the run. It helped them defend the run, which they struggled with the first two weeks, but it forced the Redskins to play with a single deep safety and man coverage on the outside against Calvin Johnson. A risky strategy.
A strategy that appeared to work early on. The Redskins got off the field early and didn't concede anything on the Lions opening drive. That brought Robert Griffin III and the offense on the field. They opened up with an end-around run to Garcon that picked up a first down. After that, we saw more of the offense we became familiar with last season. Griffin converted the Redskins first third down attempt on a sprint rollout with the pocket moving. Leonard Hankerson ran a quick out and caught the pass for a first down. We also saw Griffin keep the ball on a read-option play early for seven yards. The Lions defensive ends play very aggressively, which leaves them vulnerable to read-option and bootleg plays.
DeAngelo Hall matched up against Calvin Johnson for the majority of the first half. On the Lions second drive, backed up inside their own 10, Hall landed a fantastic jam on the line of scrimmage against Johnson. That disrupted the timing between Johnson and his quarterback Matthew Stafford on a quick slant. Hall managed to locate the ball and intercepted it, taking it back for a touchdown to make it 7-0 to the Redskins.
But from there we saw a lot of what we saw from the Redskins defense in the opening two games. Missed tackles from the secondary and penalties on third downs kept the Lions offense moving the chains. The Lions drove down the field and scored on a 12 yard run that saw London Fletcher, among others, miss a tackle on the running back Joique Bell. 7-7 the score going into the second quarter.
The Lions continued their momentum gained from Redskins mistakes to drive the ball on Washington's defense again. They used an interesting packaged play through out, where Stafford had an option to hand the ball off or throw the slant on the backside to a receiver (usually the slot). They used this on several occasions to move into the red zone. After some good pressure on first and second down, Washington dropped Brian Orakpo into coverage on tight end Joseph Fauria while Fletcher blitzed through the middle. Fletcher tripped but still rushed the throw from Stafford, who put it up for grabs. Fauria made an excellent play on the ball, going up and high pointing the catch. Orakpo had no chance. 14-7 Lions.
Washington's offense managed to get into some rhythm in the second quarter. Griffin looked particularly in sync with receiver Pierre Garcon, finding him on a number of well timed passes. The Redskins also made good use of the running game and the play-action game to move Griffin around and keep the Lions defense off balance. But on one play, Griffin was forced to scramble and attempted to throw the ball to Garcon before he went out of bounds. Chris Houston did a good job staying with the play and anticipating the throw before breaking on the ball and intercepting it. It was a bad decision from Griffin to try and force the throw on first down. He should have just throw it away and lived to fight another day.
But the defense picked him up and managed a three and out. Washington stuttered its way up the field, with penalties negating positive plays before they ran a counter play to Alfred Morris. Morris cut the ball all the way back against an aggressive Lions defense that left a big running lane on the back side. Morris took the ball 30 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, 14-14.
Detroit's offense responded by driving down the field with more missed tackles by Redskins defenders. David Amerson attempted to undercut a route, but missed the ball. Receiver Nate Burleson made the catch and took it for 41 yards. Luckily for the Redskins, Stafford missed three throws back to back and the Lions were kept to a field goal. 17-14 Lions.
Half Time: Lions 17-14 Redskins.
Washington came out of the break using the read-option. Griffin kept the first play for a five yard pick up and proceeded to then fake a read-option to connect on a deep throw to Garcon for 27 yards. But a few plays later, Leonard Hankerson failed to hold onto a pass thrown behind him and the Redskins couldn't convert the third down, settling for the field goal. 17-17
Both teams exchanged a few possessions without looking too threatening. The Lions continued to use the packaged run or slant play with success, although Amerson did a good job breaking up one slant to Burleson and make it third and five. Jim Haslett called for a big blitz on third down and Hall managed to make a tackle short of the first down on a quick slant to get off the field.
Griffin and Garcon continued to connect with good effect for the Redskins, but neither team managed to break the deadlock going into the fourth quarter.
Turning Point: The Redskins received a punt to start the third quarter. After a promising start to the drive, Kyle Shanahan called for a play-action bootleg. Detriot's defensive ends had struggled to contain Griffin all game on bootlegs, but this time the defender kept his edge. With no receivers open, Griffin was forced to cut back inside and ran up the middle, picking up 21 yards. As he went down to avoid the hit, he fumbled the ball. Griffin was obviously giving himself up, but because he dove forward had first instead of sliding, it was ruled a fumble and a crucial turnover.
The Redskins defense couldn't manage to contain the Lions offense this time. Calvin Johnson made a fantastic catch up the sideline before Burleson found himself wide open running in behind the linebackers in zone coverage. David Amerson saved the Redskins from what would have been a touchown as he undercut and broke up a pass to Burleson on the goalline. The Lions were forced to kick another field goal. 20-17 Lions.
After Garcon pulled in a high catch and broke a tackle to pick up a first down, Washington thought they finally had a big play to put them ahead. Griffin ran a play-action from a read-option fake. Aldrick Robinson ran right through the defense and got himself open deep. Griffin threw the ball the best part of 60 yards in the air and Robinson appeared to haul it in for a touchdown. But after review, the ball looked to have come loose as Robinson went to the ground. The play was overturned. The ball hits tight end Logan Paulsen on its way to Griffin, cause Griffin to dive on it and lose yards. From what looked like a 57 yard touchdown, the Redskins went to third and 20 and failed to convert.
Detroit capitalized on its next possession, as receiver Kris Durham got a step on Amerson. Amerson failed to turn his head and locate the ball, giving up 33 yards. The Redskins hurt themselves with more missed tackles. Bell should have been stopped for a minimal gain, but broke free and ended up picking up nine yards. After a couple of bad spots by the refs, Stafford converted a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches. He then went on to throw a touchdown to Johnson, who found a small gap in the Redskins zone coverage. 27-17 Lions.
Washington went into its turbo offense with four minutes left on the clock, but they were never likely to make up the 10 point deficit. Having had plenty of practice in the first two games, Griffin and Co looked solid, Santana Moss picking up a couple of nice catches. Roy Helu Jr. nearly picked up the touchdown on a checkdown. He made two big cuts to make defenders miss in the open field but was brought down at the five. But the Redskins failed to score the touchdown and settled for the field goal and onside kick attempt. 27-20 Lions.
The onside kick failed after Niles Paul caught the ball before it had passed 10 yards. Detroit ran down the clock and left the Redskins with a hail mary attempt to tie the game. Griffin scrambled to buy time and hurled the ball to the end zone, but it was batted down and landed incomplete.
Final Score: Lions 27-20 Redskins.