FIRST DOWN: SWIFT'S FIRST START
Running back D’Andre Swift got his first career start Sunday vs. Washington, and the rookie did not disappoint in helping Detroit to a 30-27 victory.
Swift rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries (5.1 average). He chipped in five catches for 68 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown that showed off both his route-running ability and power. He spun Washington linebacker Jon Bostic around on a beautiful pivot route and then ran over cornerback Jimmy Moreland at the 4-yard line to get into the end zone.
Swift came in as one of only three rookies to rush for 250 yards and catch 200 yards worth of passes this season. He's been good, but Detroit's been waiting for this kind of performance that showcases all of his skills at once. He ran patient and tough. He was elusive in the open field, and he caught all five of his targets. His 149 total yards are the most in a single game for him this season.
"He did a great job when he had opportunities to make plays today," quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Swift after the game. "He made some great ones. Some huge runs there in the second half, a big catch for a touchdown as well. I was really happy with the way he played. I know he had a bunch of fun running around out there making plays."
If it wasn't clear already, Sunday certainly proved it: Swift is a heck of a playmaker, and he's the top back in Detroit's backfield.
SECOND DOWN: CLUTCH PRATER
Veteran kicker Matt Prater said he went back to basics this week after back-to-back games with missed field goals. Prater uncharacteristically has missed six field goals already this season. He'd never missed more than five in any of his previous seasons six seasons as a Lion.
"After missing a few and kind of getting back to the basics and figuring out what's going on and kind of addressed that and had a better week of practice and it carried over to the game," Prater said.
Boy did it.
Converting from 53 and 59 yards on Sunday, Prater now has seven career games with multiple 50-plus-yard field goal makes, which is the most in NFL history.
Lions coaches and players never lost confidence in Prater, even as the uncharacteristic misses mounted for him this year. Prater rewarded everyone for that faith Sunday, proving he's still one of the most clutch kickers in the game today.
"Just go out and swing hard and hope it goes straight type thing," Prater said of his mindset in attempting the game winner. "I don't need any more pressure on myself or think that it's anything more than it is. It's just a field goal.
"Like I said in the past, I know I haven't had the best year, but any time I go out, I expect to make them and coming through in those moments for the team is always big and great job by the team for getting down there to even give us a shot at it, with however many seconds were there when we got the ball after the kickoff. So it was pretty cool."
THIRD DOWN: O-LINE PLAY
All week Detroit's offense, and particularly the guys upfront along the offensive line, were reminded how great Washington's defensive front was. It features five first-round picks and ranked fourth in sacks, and was a big reason why Washington was the No. 1 defense against the pass coming into Sunday.
Well, those guys upfront showed they can play some pretty good football, too, and it was Detroit who won the battle in the trenches for most of Sunday, not Washington.
Washington recorded one sack, one other quarterback hit and just two tackles for loss all game. Washington came in with 27.0 sacks on the year.
Detroit averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt for the game, and Stafford had a 127.8 passer rating with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I really think they stepped up to the challenge," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of his offensive line. "It was a good week of practice. We put the pressure on them in practice. We were ready to go and I think those guys handled it really well."
Oday Aboushi stepped into the starting lineup at right guard with Halapoulivaati Vaitai inactive, and he fit right in as all those guys upfront played as one solid unit. They ended up being a big reason why Detroit improved to 4-5 on the year with a clutch home victory.
"It was obviously a conscious effort to not let the defensive line try to wreck the game," Stafford said. "So, (the O-line) did an outstanding job, to block the way they did is a huge testament to them, and just happy for those guys who stepped into that situation and played as well as they did."
FOURTH DOWN: 16 SECONDS
The Lions work situational football a lot in practice, but 16 seconds left on the clock with three timeouts and needing to get around 35 yards to get into field goal range is a pretty tough situation.
"Yeah, we're way behind the clock right there, we knew that," Patricia said. "We had to make up some yardage pretty quick. Outstanding job. We do it a lot in practice. Our guys do an outstanding job with it. They understand, they're telling me before I'm even telling them the situation. Great job by those guys."
After Washington tied the game at 27-27 with a field goal with 16 seconds left, Detroit got the ball at the 25-yard line on a touchback on the kickoff. Stafford hit rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus for a 10-yard gain out to the Detroit 35 that only took four seconds off the clock before Detroit used their first timeout.
Stafford then barely missed a deep ball to Cephus, but Washington rookie defender Chase Young was called for a late hit on Stafford. That gave the Lions a free 15 yards and moved the ball to midfield with six seconds left. Washington played off, and Stafford connected with wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. on a quick-hitter of nine yards. Jones caught the ball and immediately went to the ground so the Lions could call timeout with three seconds left. In comes Prater and the rest is history.
There aren't many better in those kinds of situations than the combo of Stafford and Prater. That was about as well executed a 16 seconds as any coach can hope for.