FOUR DOWNS: Weapons step up, QB sneak, Megatron effect and hitting the curveball

Posted Sep 22, 2013

Tim Twentyman highlights four keys from Detroit's 27-20 win at Washington.



Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 385 yards and two scores in Sunday’s 27-20 win in Washington.

He completed 25 passes to eight different receivers, as everyone got involved in the action. Even reserve receiver Kris Durham had a huge play. His 33-yard catch in the fourth quarter (his only catch of the game) set up a Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson 11-yard touchdown later on the drive that sealed the win.

Johnson finished with his typical stat line of seven catches (13 targets) for 115 yards and a touchdown, but it’s the contributions the Lions got from the other eight players – and Joique Bell in the running game – that made the difference on Sunday.

“It was great to see the ball flying around and see all the other receivers get a piece of the action,” Johnson said. “That was great. I think almost all the receivers had explosives today and that’s big for us. We need that.”

Last week, in a loss at Arizona, the Lions didn’t get those contributions.

Receiver Nate Burleson was a huge factor in the win. He had two big catches of 47 and 41 yards, respectively, and finished with six catches for 116 yards.

 “I’m very prideful in the fact that I’m not a No. 1 receiver. And I’m okay with it,” Burleson said after the game.

“I’m a backup dancer to Michael Jackson and the best in the business and I do take pride in it. When I’m able to take advantage of opportunities, it just makes me feel good.”

The Lions were without a big weapon in Reggie Bush, who was inactive because of a knee injury, but it really didn’t matter, and that has to be a huge confidence booster for this offense moving forward.

“We got contributions from a lot of guys,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “(Tony) Scheffler had a big first down reception. Joique (Bell) ran the ball really hard and protected the football. Good in the passing game too. Everybody contributed to it too. That’s where we are at our best offensively.”



Maybe the biggest play in a game filled with many was the 4th-down-and-1 conversion with 4:47 remaining in the game. The Lions were at the Redskins 12-yard line, clinging to a 20-17 lead.

“I got in the huddle and asked (Dominic) Raiola what side he wanted to go to,” Stafford said. “He told me to go to the left and we shifted in and a little balance formation. I put my head down and told Joique to push me.”

Push him Joique did, and the Lions got their first down.

Two plays later, Stafford hit Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown that essentially sealed the game for the Lions.

It was a call Schwartz said he never thought second of.

“I've got confidence in the team,” Schwartz said. “Even if we don’t get it, which we’re not thinking about, but even if we don’t get it, we had good field position there and field goal still just ties the game. It wasn’t like we were up one or two.

“The next situation we probably would have gone for a field goal right there, but that was as big as of a play as there was. Matt (Stafford) did a great job finding that thing and picked that up. We executed well on a lot of areas. Their defense made it really tough on us. They blitzed all day and they made their plays. We made ours. They had a gutsy performance too. It was certainly not easy.”



The 11-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Johnson doesn’t happen for most teams in the NFL because the Redskins played it about as well as a defense can.

“They had like the perfect coverage on for that play,” Stafford said. “I got DeAngelo (Hall) to kind of, he was supposed to play outside, but I got him to bite on the arrow.

“I just tried to let Calvin work the windows on the inside. It’s not the perfect play for that kind of coverage. They had probably the right call on. We just made a play.”

Call it the “Calvin Johnson Effect”.

Sometimes, no matter how well a defense is schemed to stop Calvin Johnson, the league’s best receiver can still make a play.

“I figured somebody would be there to bang me right when I caught it,” Johnson said. “Or I figured the safety would try to come down in there. Matt just whipped it in there.

“We had the slant on right there. I figured that DeAngelo would be ready for it. I saw the safety stepping out wide, so I figured he would have come down on it. Matt stayed with me. I saw his eyes. I guess he saw the second window before I did and I just kept on moving in. And he hit me.”



Like he does every week for an opponent, Stafford studied up on the Redskins and thought he had a pretty good idea of what Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was going to throw at him.

Then he got the curveball.

“To tell you the truth, on film they had run all trap and zone blitzes and today it was all man blitzes so it was totally different,” Stafford said after the game.

“They played five base down lineman the whole game, five d-linemen the whole game. This was totally different than what we thought we were going to get."

And yet, Stafford, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and the entire offense was able to adjust on the fly and record 441 yards of offense. Even without the overhead pictures, which weren’t available on the Lions sideline for the first half because of a malfunction to the equipment.

“It was a big mix up and the fact that we didn’t have pictures to look at through the first half, I don’t know what happened,” Stafford said.

“Maybe it was just somebody shut them off, I’m not really sure. It’s the struggle of playing on the road. We were trying to piece together what we were seeing out there. It was a lot different than what we had been seeing on film.”