DETROIT — For all Matt Prater‘s struggles this season, when the Detroit Lions needed him the most — to save a game, perhaps a season and maybe even a coaching tenure, the veteran kicker did what he does best.
Prater’s 59-yard field goal as time expired gave Detroit a 30-27 win over Washington in his 100th game with the franchise, snapping a seven-game home losing streak that lasted 385 days.
It wasn’t easy, even though early on Sunday it looked at times like it might be for the Lions. But these are the Lions — often losers of leads and allergic to comfortable home wins — which meant that even a seemingly safe second-half lead still became tenuous.
To get the team’s first home win in over a year, to make sure Day No. 385 without a win at Ford Field did not become No. 386, the Lions needed to rally late mostly because of a 21-point lead it gave away.
Which, if you’ve followed the Lions under coach Matt Patricia, remains a theme.
Unlike in Week 1 when Detroit lost after rookie running back D’Andre Swift dropped a pass in the end zone in the final moments, it was Swift who played a big part in giving the Lions the chance to win. On Detroit’s second-to-last drive in regulation, the Lions relied on Swift and the offensive line, handing it to him over and over again to move down the field to set up Matt Prater’s field goal with 2:37 left.
After a Washington field goal tied the game with 16 seconds left, Detroit drove down the field enough to give Prater, who had made 55 field goals of 50-plus yards in his career entering Sunday, a chance to make one to win.
In doing so, he saved the Lions from overtime and from another collapse under Patricia — something Detroit desperately needed.
Describe the game in two words: Barely escaped. That’s the only way to explain yet another near-collapse, this time blowing a 21-point second-half lead they had no business losing after dominating Washington on offense and defense in the first two-and-a-half quarters.
Buy D’Andre Swift: It’s been coming for a while now but Swift finally took control of the Lions’ backfield Sunday against Washington. He earned his first start after out-snapping Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson for weeks and made the most of it, rushing for 81 yards and catching five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Detroit relied on its rookie second-round pick throughout the game. He played the vast majority of snaps for Detroit and came up with big play after big play, including a 15-yard touchdown reception where he used his route-running and power to force his way into the end zone to give Detroit a 24-3 lead. Swift is the team’s running back of the future — and the present, too. He’s a player to build around.
Troubling trend: Collapsing leads. This isn’t new, although the Lions haven’t been in late-game lead-losing mode for a month or so. But it’s still such an alarming trend under Patricia, who remains on the hot seat even after a last-second win. Washington is not a good football team and Smith was making his first start at quarterback in almost two years. Detroit escaped this time — which, in some ways, is progress — but still not something you can feel good about on the whole.
QB Breakdown: Matthew Stafford had a sharp game, completing 72.7% of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns, tying Joe Montana for No. 17 all-time with 273. He found his receivers in deep-and-intermediate pockets, including a 55-yard touchdown to Marvin Hall on the game’s first drive. While his 276 yards were not eye-popping, he was efficient against a pretty good Washington defense and looked much more like the quarterback Detroit had hoped he’d be all season.