After dropping their first two games of the season the Redskins traveled to Detroit riding a four game winning streak to face off against a Lions squad that has brought their record to an even 3-3 with wins in the each of their last two contests entering Sunday's action.
This week, the Redskins sought their sixth consecutive road victory, a streak that dated back to last season, which would tie the fifth-longest strech in team history. It would also represent the team’s first six-game road winning streak since winning their first seven road contests of the 1991 season.
Washington won the opening toss and deferred, giving the Lions the ball first and they quickly went three and out, aided by a pass breakup by Will Compton.
Michigan native Kirk Cousins took the field at the 14-yard line and guided the offense to two first downs with Matt Jones (who narrowly averted danger by recovering his own fumble) on the ground and Jamison Crowder through the air (on a beautiful double move) before the drive stalled and the Redskins were forced to punt.
Jamison Crowder juked Darius Slay out of his soul today.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) October 23, 2016
I mean... damn. #Redskins pic.twitter.com/SjrhMeOCyH
The Lions moved the football into Redskin territory after Golden Tate plucked the ball out of the air after the Matt Stafford’s pass doinked off the back of Bashaud Breeland and resulted in a 16-yard gain.
Stafford's pass bounces off the DB's back...— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2016
Right into @showtimetate's hands?
1st down, @Lions.
Detroit was unable to capitalize as Matt Prater’s 49-yard field goal attempt missed badly to the left, and the game remained scoreless.
After taking over on the 39-yard line the Redskins marched down into the Detroit red zone, before ghosts of ball control past came back to spook Matt Jones, who put the ball on the carpet as he fought for extra yardage towards the goal line, where it was recovered in the end zone by the Lions to end the first quarter with both teams off the scoreboard.
Much has been made of Jones’ ball control issues in the past, and with that turnover he now averages a fumble for every 26 rushes in his 20-game NFL career.
Justin Forsett, in just his second week with the Lions after being cut/re-signed/cut from the Ravens, rushed for consecutive first downs and moved the ball into Redskins territory, before Golden Tate picked up 27 yards on a 2nd and 20 aided by good downfield blocking and poor downfield tackling. The Redskins defense bent but did not break, as Praeter connected on a 43-yard attempt to give the Lions a 3-0 lead with 9:37 left in the first half.
Coach Gruden decided he had seen enough of Jones’ spooky ball security, and gave the nod at tailback to Chris Thompson and preseason darling Rob Kelley on the next Redskins drive to send a message to his struggling starting running back.
Brandon Scherff, suffered a left shoulder injury on a run-blocking effort and was attended to by the training staff who listed him as questionable to return.
Dustin Hopkins lined up for a 45 yard attempt, which plunked off the top of left upright and kept the Redskins off the scoreboard. The miss was just his second of the season.
that hit the top of the dang upright. #RedskinsTalk pic.twitter.com/ICQumXzNBz— CSN Redskins (@CSNRedskins) October 23, 2016
Mason Foster knocked down a pass, Ryan Kerrigan recorded a sack, and the Lions once again went three and out.
Kerrigan just ruined someone's day pic.twitter.com/LfFb58OuJZ— Danny (@recordsANDradio) October 23, 2016
Ryan Kerrigan made the start in his 87th consecutive game, which is tied for second-most among active NFL linebackers, and has not missed a start in his NFL career.
In the hurry-up offense, the Redskins marched down to the 18 yard line off multiple first downs setting up a 4th and 1, where they opted for a Hopkins 38 yard attempt that went straight through as time expired, bringing the game back even at 3-3 through the end of the first half.
The Redskins defense was strong as well, holding Matthew Stafford to just 79 passing yards through the first two quarters, the lowest first half total through the air in his last 15 games.
Garcon got the offense started in the second half with a 22 yard reception, extending his streak of consecutive regular season games played with a reception to 93, the sixth-longest active streak in the NFL. Sixty-four of the games in Garçon’s streak have come with Washington, the third-longest streak by a member of the Redskins since the 1970 merger.
After moving out beyond midfield, consecutive penalties, a rare dropped long ball over the middle by Crowder, and a bad burned timeout on 3rd and 13 stalled the drive, and the Redskins were forced to punt.
After breaking free of the pocket for a 18 yard scramble, Stafford followed up with a deep bomb over the middle for 52 yards to Marvin Jones, who shrugged off a Josh Norman pass interference and made the catch down to the Redskins’ 14 yard line.
Norman was injured on the play after a hard impact with the turf while attempting to make the play. After slowly being helped off the field by the training staff, he was taken back to the locker room and was diagnosed with a concussion.
Stafford goes DEEP.— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2016
And @MarvinJonesJr makes the play...
52-yard @Lions gain. #WASvsDET https://t.co/cIzZkvzy2X
Another Marvin Jones completion set up first-and-goal at the one yard-line. Two plays later Zach Zenner capped off a 7-play 86-yard drive for his first career touchdown, the first of the game. Prater's extra point made it 10-3 with 7:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The score was the first touchdown allowed by the Redskins in their last 26 consecutive drives, a streak that spanned over their last ten quarters of play.
A mix of runs, passes, and defensive penalties, gave the Redskins their best offensive rhythm of the afternoon, as they marched to the Lions 38-yard line, before a botched handoff from Cousins to Jones was pounced on by Kerry Hyder for the Lions’ second recovered fumble of the day. Spencer Long’s lack of quickness off the snap found him in Cousins’ lap, which induced the turnover.
*hears calliope music* pic.twitter.com/yvDQpflOH7— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) October 23, 2016
The Lions moved quickly down the field in 6 plays to get into the Redskins red zone as the third quarter came to a close. The ten-play, 53-yard drive was capped off by a 27-yard field goal from Prater with 13:14 remaining in the 4th to give the Lions a 10 point advantage, 13-3.
The Redskins showed their ability to move the football on their next drive, going 47 yards on 6 plays to get to the Lions 27 yard line with inside 10 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, as Kirk Cousins found Vernon Davis on a 27-yard corner route that brought them down to first and goal from the one yard line.
Undeterred by Jones' previous goal line miscue in the first half, Jay Gruden called his number on first down where he was stuffed, but Robert Kelley found the end zone on a screen pass out to the flat on the ensuing play for his first career score. Hopkins converted on the PAT to bring the deficit back to 3 with 8:20 remaining. The touchdown drive, their first of the day went 9 plays and 75 yards over 4:50 of elapsed play time.
Rob Kelley, lined up at FB, gets the TD reception from SPIDER 2Y BANANA.#Redskins pic.twitter.com/k89MASCzec— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) October 23, 2016
On 3rd and 14 Will Blackmon offered Breeland strong safety coverage over the top, and knocked down a long pass towards the sideline, getting the Redskins the ball back with under five and a half minutes remaining in regulation time.
Washington took over on their own 24-yard line, and Captain Kirk found his new favorite receiver, Jamison Crowder on a free release down the seam for a 19 yard gain to the 49 yard line. The catch moved Crowder over the the 100-yard mark for the first time this season.
Out of the two-minute warning, on 2nd and 9 from the Lions 30-yard line a stumbling Cousins found Chris Thompson out in the flat setting up a 3rd and 1, where once again the tailback plunged forward for a first down on a one yard gain out of a spread formation, shotgun set with under 80 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing play, the Redskins once again lined up in a spread shotgun set and Kirk Cousins faked the handoff up the middle to Thompson, and scampered to the outside on the quarterback keeper, and found pay dirt for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:07 remaining, giving the Redskins a 17-13 lead.
Cousins SPEED!@KirkCousins8's 19-yard TD run gives the @redskins the LEAD in Detroit! #HTTR #WASvsDET https://t.co/26HJNSrBXN— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2016
The call was brilliantly orchestrated by Sean McVay by the previous play, and came as a complete surprise to not only the Ford Field fans, but also to the Lions’ defensive line who bit hard on the fake, crashing to the middle going directly for the tailback that allowed Cousins to run free.
The Lions took over needing a touchdown, and two quick plays later they moved into Redskins territory on the Redskins' 38 yard line with 38 seconds remaining. Stafford went over the middle and found former Redskin Andre Roberts down inside the red zone, catching the dinged up Redskins defensive secondary back on their heels.
On 3rd and 10 from the 18-yard line and just 22 seconds remaining, Stafford capped off the comeback by connecting with Anquan Boldin for the 18 yard score. The drive spanned 75 yards on just 6 plays, and allowed the Lions to retake a 3-point lead.
Matthew "CLUTCH" Stafford!— NFL (@NFL) October 23, 2016
The @Lions are back on top in Detroit! #WASvsDET https://t.co/T8ZhCZ76fg
A frantic final series of downfield throws by Cousins came up short, and the Redskins fell in a heartbreaker, 20-17.
Cousins finished the day 30 of 39 for 301 yards, with both a passing and rushing touchdown. Cousins recorded his 15th career 300-yard passing game, including postseason play, which moves him past Joe Theismann (14) for sole possession of second in team history.
Jamison Crowder led the Redskins receivers with 7 catches for 108 yards, while Vernon Davis added 80 yards on 6 catches filling becoming the 13th tight end in NFL history to record 6,000 career receiving yards while in for the injured Jordan Reed for the second consecutive week.
The Redskins will have more questions than answers at running back this week, as Matt Jones (10 carries, 27 yards, 2 fumbles), Chris Thompson (12 rushes, 73 yards; 6 receptions, 40 yards), and Robert Kelley (4 carries, 15 yards; 1 catches for a TD grab) all got in on the action in the backfield.
Defensively, the Redskins linebackers provided another strong showing as Will Compton (8 tackles, 1 pass deflection), Mason Foster (5 tackles, 1 pass deflection, 1 QB hit), Trent Murphy (2 tackles, 1 sack) and Ryan Kerrigan (1 tackle, 1 sack) all turned in solid performances. New addition to the team, Donte Whitner led all Redskins defenders with 8 total tackles on the afternoon.
For the Lions, Matt Stafford went 18/29, 266 yards and 1 TD, and the comeback effort was the 24th of his career. Overall, they picked up just just 94 yards on 19 carries, led by Justin Forsett's 8 rushes for 33 yards. Marvin Jones led the receivers with 4 grabs for 94 yards, averaging just under 24 yards per catch.
Injuries to Breeland, Norman, and Trent Williams all provide cause for concern, and they will likely be evaluated in the upcoming week.
With the loss, the Redskins fell to 4-3 overall, dropping one game back in the very competitive NFC East battle after wins by the Giants (4-3) and Eagles (4-2) with the Cowboys (5-1) on their bye week.
Key missed opportunities contributed to the defeat including the Jones' goal line fumble, Hopkins' missed field goal, and of course the defensive lapses that led to the Lions' final scoring drive to end the contest.
The game's final moments were a true gut punch, just as it seemed the Redskins were going to cap off the 4th quarter comeback. Washington returns to action next week on the road against the Bengals in London at 9:30 AM EST, in what now proves to be a critical game for this season following today's loss.