After a half of football today, the Lions looked like they were in some trouble. Although the defense was playing extremely well, shutting down the Redskins' offense for the most part, Matthew Stafford was very rusty and the offense couldn't do much of anything. It was only a 13-7 game in favor of Washington, but the Lions needed to get it going offensively in the second half.
Thankfully, that is exactly what they did. In the second half, Stafford shook off the rust and started playing like the quarterback we know he can be. The Lions were moving the ball on offense, putting up points, and most importantly, continuing to play pretty well on defense. This solid effort on both sides of the ball ultimately gave the Lions a lead late in the game, and they sealed the win when Ndamukong Suh picked up a fumble and took it to the house for a touchdown. The emphatic TD put the Lions on top by a score of 37-25, which is what the final ended up being.
The first quarter of this game was a punt fest with an interception thrown in. Neither team could do much of anything offensively, and the one time the Lions got into position to score, Matthew Stafford threw a bad pass and was picked off in the end zone.
In the second quarter, the Lions finally got a spark when Stefan Logan returned a punt 71 yards to the Washington 19-yard line. Stafford found Calvin Johnson for a 13-yard touchdown a few plays later, putting the Lions on top, 7-0. Unfortunately, Washington got a spark of its own on the ensuing kickoff, getting a big return. Donovan McNabb then scrambled for a gain of 36 on the next play, setting up a six-yard pass to Ryan Torain for a touchdown.
In the rest of the second quarter, Washington added two field goals, one from 38 yards out and another from 46 yards out. Before the 38-yard kick, Alphonso Smith dropped an interception that would have been an easy touchdown, costing the Lions a big swing in momentum. Also, before Washington took over and ended up kicking the 46-yard field goal, Stafford misfired on a pass downfield that could have been a touchdown to Calvin Johnson. As a result, Detroit trailed at halftime, 13-7.
In the third quarter, it was back to a punt fest early on, with both teams against struggling to move the ball on offense. Detroit finally got things moving after the two teams traded punts, though. The Lions got good field position and marched down the field, scoring on a two-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew.
After a lengthy Redskins drive stalled and they had to punt, Detroit got the ball and appeared to have something going again. On third and 10, Nate Burleson caught a pass and picked up 25 yards, but just like last week, he fumbled. This time he simply had the ball punched out from behind and London Fletcher recovered it for Washington.
Going into the fourth quarter, the two teams traded punts again, but Washington's offensive funk finally ended when McNabb found Anthony Armstrong for 35 yards. The Redskins already had good field position, and the long pass set up a five-yard touchdown run two plays later. Just like that, the Lions were down, 19-14.
The Lions quickly answered in what suddenly became a back-and-forth affair, going down the field in only six plays and scoring on a seven-yard pass from Stafford to Calvin Johnson. Detroit got good field position thanks to a 37-yard kick return by Jerome Felton -- yes, Jerome Felton (they kicked it short and he took it to the Washington 47) -- and moved the ball thanks in part to Kevin Smith, who played very well on this drive.
Detroit's lead didn't last long, because Brandon Banks took the ensuing kick back 96 yards for a touchdown. He had a touchdown on a kick return called back earlier in the game because of a penalty, but there were no flags on this one and the Redskins were back up, leading 25-20 (the two-point conversion was no good).
The Lions failed to answer on the next drive, having to punt, but Alphonso Smith made up for his dropped interception earlier in the game by picking off a McNabb pass on the second play of the next drive. The pick gave the Lions the ball at the Washington 37 and set them up for a 10-yard, go-ahead touchdown from Stafford to Calvin Johnson. The play came on fourth and one and was very clutch by both Stafford and Johnson, as it gave the Lions a 28-25 lead (the two-point conversion was good).
After the Redskins went four and out, the Lions got the ball back and went into run-out-the-clock mode, forcing the Redskins to use their timeouts. The Lions couldn't put the game away with a first down, but Jason Hanson made a 32-yard kick to put Detroit up six points.
The game was put away on the first play of the Redskins' next drive. Rex Grossman came in at quarterback for some reason, and on his first play of the season he was sacked by Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. The ball came loose and Ndamukong Suh was there to pick it up and return it 17 yards for a touchdown. Suh started celebrating the score about seven yards away from the end zone, which could have resulted in a turnover, but Santana Moss bounced right off him when he tried to make the tackle. As the picture above shows, Suh was laughing at Moss' weak effort to make the tackle, because he just kept on chugging right along into the end zone.
Suh's touchdown made the final score 37-25 in favor of Detroit (they went for two again and didn't get it). It was an all-around great game to watch, because the defense was lights out for all but a drive here or there and the offense finally got it going in the second half, which was nice to see.
On offense, Matthew Stafford had an excellent day after a slow start, going 26 of 45 for 212 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. His favorite target was Calvin Johnson, who had nine catches, 101 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. On the ground, Kevin Smith ran the ball for 51 yards on 12 rushes and Jahvid Best had 48 yards on 12 rushes. Both played well and we may have witnessed the formation of a solid one-two punch with Smith and Best.
On defense, the D-line was the definition of domination. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril and Ndamukong Suh each had two sacks, making life miserable for Donovan McNabb (and for Rex Grossman on one play). While there were a couple drives where they made mistakes, the defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping things close when the offense was struggling. They bought the offense time to get things in order, and once that happened the Lions were able to take over and win this game.
Next week, the Lions face possibly their toughest test of the season when the Jets come to town. New York had its five-game winning streak snapped today by the Packers in a 9-0 loss, so they are certainly beatable. It will be a tough game for sure, but as the Lions showed today, both the offense and defense seem to be clicking right now. Hopefully in a battle between Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, it is Stafford that comes out victorious. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on CBS.