The 27-20 victory was notable on a number of fronts. Here are some of my lasting impressions from the triumph.
With Reggie Bush sidelined with a knee injury, the pressure was on backup Joique Bell to deliver.
Bell answered the bell.
The third-year back from Wayne State ran 20 times for 63 yards, a number deflated by losing two yards on his final three carries as the Lions tried to run out the clock late. Bell scored the Lions' first touchdown on the day with a 12-yard TD in the first quarter.
Bell also made his mark as a receiver, providing a very reasonable facsimile of the elusive Bush. He hauled in four receptions for 69 yards. That's 132 combined yards for the Lions running back, many of which came after first contact. He broke several tackles, taking full advantage of Washington's poor tackling fundamentals. His nine-yard run on the Lions' final TD drive should have been stopped for a loss, but he broke at least three tackles on that play alone.
It's very reassuring to have such a strong No. 2 running back as Bell. It's a luxury many teams do not have.
Last season, many of us in the media dogged Lions return man Stefan Logan (pictured) for being ineffective. Maybe the problem wasn't Logan after all.
Once again, the Lions punt and kick return game was unacceptably inept. Detroit started just one drive beyond its own 20 off a punt or kick in this contest. Not coincidentally, this produced the game-sealing touchdown drive after a bad Sav Rocca punt gave Detroit the ball at its own 29.
Last week, the Lions failed to start a drive beyond its own 21. Micheal Spurlock has consistently shown an inability to create space for himself, but in most cases the return man has had little opportunity. The blocking on the return units, particularly the kickoff return, has not been up to snuff.
This recurring problem is something which must be fixed moving forward.
The Lions' first-round pick in April had himself quite a game against the Redskins. Ansah recorded two sacks on Robert Griffin III, including one which forced a fumble for the second consecutive week.
The unofficial box score from ESPN also credited Ziggy with two other QB hits. My personal notes had him for three QB hurries aside from the sacks. He was a major handful for Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, one of the better tackles in the league, all afternoon. Ziggy even showed his range, running down Alfred Morris from behind to prevent a big run early in the third quarter.
Games like these are what the Lions had in mind when they made Ansah the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. He earned my game ball as the biggest reason the Lions came up victorious.
Detroit fans, we are spoiled.
Lions fans are witnessing one of the most lethal and productive quarterback/wide receiver tandems in NFL history with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Both are very talented in their own rights, but together they are truly special.
Johnson caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in this game. Those numbers gave Johnson a couple of milestones.
Calvin Johnson passed both the 500-catch and 8,000-yard marks becoming the 3rd WR in NFL history to reach both in fewer than 100 games.— Michigan Sports News (@SportingNewsMI) September 22, 2013
This was Johnson's 34th time topping the 100-yard mark. It also marked Stafford's 19th career game topping 300 yards passing. Several of his connections to Johnson were throws that require perfect timing and implicit trust between quarterback and wideout.
Stafford is not afraid to throw into tight quarters, knowing Johnson has the length and strength to make the difficult play. The late touchdown Sunday is the latest example of why the Detroit offense always has a chance with these two on the field together.
Detroit moved the ball pretty well from poor field position, but the drives stalled to frequently once the Lions got into the red zone.
Things started well enough. Bell scored from 12 yards out in the first quarter, and Stafford found rookie tight end Joseph Fauria for a pretty five-yard TD catch between two defenders. After that, it was not so pretty.
On the next red-zone possession, Stafford went 0-of-3. DeAngelo Hall made an excellent play to break up the first attempt, a throw to Johnson that was on the money if not for the nice play by the Redskins corner.
Stafford replicated the 0-of-3 on the next red-zone possession as well. He missed an open Fauria on a fade thrown too wide, then overshot the 6'7" Fauria on third down.
Had the Lions converted either one of those golden opportunities into touchdowns, this game would not have been so close. The Lions have proved they can punch it in, but the consistency leaves something to be desired.
The numbers don't really look all that awful on first blush. Detroit "only" committed eight penalties in this game, costing it 71 yards. While that's still pretty ugly, it has been far worse.
Here's a quick look at the Lions' penalty woes this year
The eight really hurt Sunday, however. Sam Martin booted the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds, giving the Redskins prime field position. Four other Detroit penalties gave Washington first downs, including three on Washington scoring drives.
Willie Young committed an offsides penalty in the first half, which extended his string of committing at least one penalty in every half so far this year (one was declined). He finally snapped that in the second half, but C.J. Mosley picked up his slack with a personal foul penalty.
None were more egregious than Nick Fairley's personal foul, however. It drew unanimous enmity from Twitter:
Nick Fairley with a silly penalty after the play - again— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 22, 2013
Dumb personal foul penalty by Nick Fairley. DUMB— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) September 22, 2013
At least Ndamukong Suh had a penalty-free afternoon, but his defensive linemates more than made up for his clean slate. This ongoing, eminently preventable issue appears beyond Jim Schwartz's control.
My game notes on the Lions offensive line are all over the map. The line started poorly, giving up an easy A-gap blitz and sack on the very first snap. It struggled with the edge speed of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo most of the day.
Brian Orakpo has knocked Matt Stafford to the ground on each of his last two passing attempts. He hasn't been blocked on either play.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) September 22, 2013
Most of the rushing productivity stemmed from Bell making things happen after contact; the interior run blocking was not effective most of the day. Stafford was hit 10 times, according to the game charters at ESPN.
Yet I also have several positive comments on left tackle Riley Reiff, notably in his run blocking. Larry Warford was spotted engaged with defenders well down the field several times, and his blitz pickup improved as the game progressed. When the Redskins rushed fewer than five, Stafford almost always had however much time he needed to survey the field and attack the wildly inconsistent Washington pass coverage.
The worst news from the win comes on the injury front. Starting defensive end Jason Jones is lost for the season with a knee injury.
Detroit missed him right away.
That Alfred Morris touchdown went right through the space where Jason Jones would have been. His injury hurt quickly.— Ty Schalter (@tyschalter) September 22, 2013
Israel Idonije is best utilized in small doses, but this injury will force him to play more. On the bright side, the Lions do have depth at the position with hulking rookie Devin Taylor, who was a game-day inactive against Washington. Taylor has big shoes to fill, as Jones was very good at stacking the edge against the run.