Shanahan: Going for field goal over touchdown kept hopes alive

Mike Shanahan, Ed Hochuli

Mike Shanahan yells at referee Ed Hochuli after Robert Griffin III appeared to be down, but fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter of the loss against the Lions. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that he settled for a field goal within the final two minutes of play rather than going for a touchdown on fourth and goal from the Detroit 3-yard line so his team could have a chance to remain in the game.

The Redskins, after falling behind 27-17, got the ball back with just less than four minutes to play and reached the 3-yard line before Robert Griffin III threw three straight incompletions.

On fourth and goal from the 3, Shanahan sent John Potter on for a 21-yard field goal that he made, cutting the score to 27-20.

Ideally, Shanahan would’ve preferred to score a touchdown and then need only a field goal to tie the game. The coach could have tried for one more touchdown pass, but had the Redskins failed, they wouldn’t have even had much of a chance to get the ball back.

“When you’re all of a sudden missing on three downs and now you’re forced to kick another field goal with a two-score game, and you want to be back in the game, you know you have to get the onside kick to have a legitimate chance with the time to score a touchdown,” Shanahan said.

The Redskins attempted an onside kick, and Niles Paul recovered it – but the ball hadn’t traveled the required 10 yards. The Lions got the ball and the defense held, but Washington had only 38 seconds to go 80 yards and score. A Hail Mary pass from Robert Griffin to Pierre Garcon fell incomplete.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Shanahan speaks with reporters Monday at 3 p.m.; Next week’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders, plays later in the evening against Denver on Monday Night Football.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Redskins fall to 0-3 with 27-20 loss to Detroit Lions

Each Griffin highlight came with a footnote

Fletcher: ‘We beat ourselves’ | Players aren’t giving up

Live blog: Postgame quotes and ongoing conversation

D.C. Sports Bog: Redskins vs. Lions best and worst | More Redskins

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