Lions-Redskins Final Thoughts: Big plays from role players; my pick review; playing time helps Glasgow; offense protecting defense, even if not intended; fourth-down perfection:
Role players: The Lions can only hope to get the same critical production today from their role players that they got from wide receiver Andre Roberts and safety Rafael Bush in last week's victory over the Rams.
Roberts had a touchdown catch on a fourth-down play late in the first half that put the Lions in a 14-14 tie, and another catch on third down in the fourth quarter on the drive to the game-tying touchdown.
Bush had the game-clinching interception on the Rams' last possession. Before that, Bush assisted Glover Quin on a tackle that kept Rams receiver Kenny Britt out of the end zone. On the next play as the half ended, Todd Gurley was tackled for a loss on fourth and one.
Roberts played only 11 of the 62 offensive snaps as the No. 4 receiver, but he kept his head in the game and was ready to make a play when he had to.
On fourth and goal at the two-yard line, Roberts saw Stafford escaping the rush and looking for an open receiver in the end zone. Roberts barely got free to catch Stafford's bazooka-shot in the front right corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
"Any time the quarterback leaves the pocket, we try to get open," Roberts said. "The play might break down. It's easy to see that on film. Stafford got rushed on his left side. He just made a great throw. I appreciated the opportunity.
"Anytime you get a touchdown on a broken play, it's perfect."
Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines was covering on the play and was flagged for pass interference. The TD catch wiped out the penalty.
It wasn't Roberts' first big catch. He had 229 catches and 13 touchdowns in four seasons with the Cardinals and two with the Redskins before signing with the Lions in June.
"It's pretty cool," Roberts said of his TD catch. "I've been playing for a little while now. It never gets old."
Pick review: My pick Friday was Lions 27, Redskins 26. That's as close as you can make it, without picking a tie.
Bottom line: Going in, it's the Lions' toughest game in the first seven weeks. Something might happen during the game to change it – injuries, turnovers, freak plays – but the Lions have to play their best game so far to win.
Snap-count bottom line: Roberts played 11 of 62 offensive snaps, Bush 10 of 58 on defense. Combined that is 21 out of 120 snaps for two players who scored a touchdown, prevented a touchdown, extended a possession that ended in a touchdown and closed out the game.
On the line: In his first pro start last week, rookie Graham Glasgow had the benefit of having had his first extended playing time on the offensive line in the previous game against the Eagles. Glasgow played 34 of 61 snaps in a rotation with starter Laken Tomlinson.
With right guard Larry Warford out against the Rams, Glasgow played every snap at left guard while Tomlinson moved to the right side.
For Glasgow, playing against the Eagles gave him a reference point in his development.
"It's good to see what you did in a game," Glasgow said. "You come back Monday to see what you need to improve on – just how you're progressing."
Fourth-and-perfect: The stats show that Caldwell is playing the odds this year, not gambling, by going for it on fourth down.
The Lions are 5-for-5 on fourth down. Only two other teams have converted every time. Dallas is 3-for-3, and Philadelphia is 4-for-4.
The Lions were 7-for-14 last year, and 10-for-20 in 2014, Caldwell's first year as head coach.
Offense protects defense: Even if it's not intended that way, the Lions' offense is an ally of its beleaguered defense. Head coach Jim Caldwell often talks about playing "complementary football," and the stats indicate that the offense is limiting how many snaps the defense has played.
Through Thursday night's Packers-Bears game, the Lions are one of 24 teams that have played six games.
The defense has been on the field for 357 snaps. Only three of the other 23 teams have played fewer defensive snaps: the Titans (355), Packers (353) and Ravens (350).
The offense has played 368 snaps. Of the other 23 teams that have played six games, only the Bills (358), Rams (352) and Dolphins (332) have run fewer plays.
The Lions have huddled on offense, likely because injuries have forced them to use so many new players. That takes time off the clock. As a result, their average possession time of 30:42 ranks 15th. The defense's average time on the field of 29:18 is 13th, but it ranks 25th in yards allowed per game (379.7) and last in average gain allowed per play (6.4 yards).
Whether it's part of the overall plan or not, the less time the defense is exposed the better.