O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: Lions' offense clicking and missing in 27-20 win at Washington

Posted Sep 22, 2013

Mike O'Hara looks at the offense's performance, a first quarter interception, key rules and more in the Lions' 27-20 win at Washington

LANDOVER, Md. – Burning questions – key rules decisions, the Lions’ offense clicking and missing, and a first-quarter interception that put the Lions in the hole in Sunday’s 27-20 victory over Washington at FedExField:

Q. Fate? Luck? Good play? How did the Lions end a 21-game road losing streak to Washington that began in 1939?

A. It wasn’t fate or luck or rules or any of that. It was football. The Lions were frustrating at times, brilliant defensively at times, good and bad on offense at times, and everything in between.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

But football plays by both teams, Washington and the Lions, won and lost the game. And the Lions made more good plays than Washington, and not as many bad ones.

Q. Coaching decision: Fourth-and-one for the Lions with just under five minutes left with a 20-17 lead. The Lions went for it. Right coach by head coach Jim Schwartz.

A. Yes. That was my first-guess call (ask Tim Twentyman for verification.)  A sneak by Stafford got the first down with room to spare. It was time to win a game, not kick a field goal to make it a six-point lead and let a touchdown and extra point win it for Washington.

No doubt, good call in my book, and there were a lot of other calls on offense and defense that I cannot say the same about.

Two plays later, Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for the game-clinching TD. That’s good football.

Q. Rules decision – Washington TD called back: Aldrick Robinson got behind Rashean Mathis to make an apparent  57-yard TD catch and give Washington a 24-20 lead. It was ruled no TD. Why not?

A. It was the Calvin Johnson “process” rule, or at least a version of it. Robinson did not complete the process. The ball came loose as Robinson lunged across the goal line into the end zone. Here is how referee Ed Hochuli explained it as follows after the catch and ruling on the field was overturned by the automatic replay review that is done on all scoring plays:

“The ball came loose as the receiver hit the ground, and the ball was rolling on the ground.”

Q. Rules decision II: fumble play: Robert Griffin III fumbled the ball on a scramble, and the Lions were given the ball on a recovery at their 25. Why wasn’t Griffin ruled down, and Washington given the ball?

A. It would have been Washington’s ball if Griffin had slid feet first, therefore giving himself up at the point where he hit the turf. By sliding feet first, he was still a ball carrier, and when the ball came out before contact with a defensive player, it was a fumble.

Hochuli explained the call that way. It was the right call, and Detroit’s ball.

Q. Drive time, stall: The Lions didn’t take full advantage of that change in possession. On first and goal at the 10, Matthew Stafford threw three straight in complete passes. Two were meant for rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, and one was tipped in the end zone.

Shouldn’t the Lions have gone to Calvin Johnson at least once?

A. Yes. Next question.

Q. Johnson & Johnson & Johnson: On first down at Washington’s 14 late in the first half, Stafford went to Johnson on three straight passes. All three were incomplete. Did he look to Johnson too many times?

A. I don’t think you can ever throw to Megatron too many times. He threw a corner route on the first one, down the right seam on the second. The third throw was on a rollout to Stafford’s left, and he couldn’t hit Johnson in the back of the end zone, with a defender in front of Johnson.

Q. Hall pass:  Stafford threw two TD passes and made some bit throws, but what appened on the interception return on the Lions’ second play that gave Washington an interception return for a TD and a 7-0 lead?

A. Nothing happened that needed to happen. It was first down at the Lions’ nine-yard line, and Stafford was looking for Johnson, who was split wide right. DeAngelo Hall had Johnson tied up.

Stafford threw the ball in front of Johnson before he cut, and it got through to Hall for the pick. It looked like Stafford was anticipating that Johnson would get inside Hall, but he didn’t. It was a seven-point miscalculation.

Q. Stafford special delivery: On a second-quarter TD pass to rookie Joseph Fauria, Stafford threw the ball sidearm, off his back foot.  Don’t the critics say Stafford has bad mechanics?

A. Yes they do say that, and sometimes he throws the ball sidearm off his back foot. Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the NFL. With a flick of his wrist, he can get more on the ball than a lot of quarterbacks can when they set and step into the ball with a text-book delivery.

The TD pass to Fauria was an example of that. Stafford will take the TD. The critics – and they aren’t always wrong – can have the text book.

Q. Bush-whacked: Lost in all this is the fact that the Lions played without Reggie Bush. He was inactive because of a knee injury. Joique Bell played well in place of Bush.

Does this mean that the Lions don’t need Reggie Bush?

A. That’s not even funny. The Lions need all the good players they can get, and Bush is one of their best players.

They broke a 74-year-old losing streak without him. They don’t want to wait another 74 years to see what it’s like to break another without him.