“They had a great call on them and we just did a good job of making a play,” said Stafford, who completed 25 of 42 passes for 385 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Redskins managed to reach the Detroit 3-yard line but failed to score on three straight attempts and had to settle for a 21-yard John Potter field goal to cut the score to 27-20 with 1:40 left.
Washington got the ball back once more but had little time to work with. A Hail Mary attempt by Griffin to Pierre Garcon with time running out fell to the grass. The Redskins trudged to the locker room in a daze, with last season’s NFC East title seemingly in the distant past.
The Redskins entered the game needing an improved effort from a defense that had surrendered a league-high 402 rushing yards in the first two games while also struggling against the pass and allowing 50 first-half points.
Linebacker London Fletcher opened the game with a sack on the first play. Then, for the second time this season, the Redskins’ defense got a touchdown from cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Charged primarily with covering all-pro wide receiver Johnson, Hall perfectly read a poorly thrown slant pass from Stafford, picked it off and scored from 17 yards out. (Hall scored on a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Week 1). The play gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead with 9:31 left in the first quarter.
Griffin began displaying an improved comfort and feel in the pocket and confidence in his legs as he rolled out and extended plays before finding open receivers for receptions.
But a potentially impressive first-quarter drive ended in an interception after Griffin tried too hard to make a play. Rolling to his right and scanning the field for an open receiver, Griffin neared the sideline when Detroit defensive end Willie Young got a hand on him and started to pull him down from behind. But Griffin tried chucking the ball downfield to Pierre Garcon. Lions cornerback Chris Houston jumped the route, however, and picked off the sideline pass.
The Redskins finally got their first first-half scoring drive of the season when Griffin completed three of five passes — including an 18-yard throw to Santana Moss — to put his team on the 30. Morris then took a handoff, bounced outside, turned the corner after receiving a block from Reed on the edge and raced the rest of the way untouched for his second touchdown of the season.
The first half ended with Detroit up 17-14, and the Redskins tied the game with a 43-yard field goal from John Potter roughly three minutes into the third quarter.
The score remained knotted at 17 for the remainder of the third quarter, and Washington appeared poised to take its first lead early in the fourth quarter. But another turnover killed those hopes.
On first and 10 from the 50-yard line, Griffin got flushed from the pocket and took off downfield, zigzagging his way through traffic. Reaching the 30 and with defenders converging upon him, Griffin dove head first, but as he hit the ground, the ball came out and bounced another five yards forward before safety Glover Quin recovered it. Had Griffin slid feet first, he would have been down as soon as he hit the ground.
The Lions outscored Washington 10-3 down the stretch and secured the win.
“We have to eliminate some of those mistakes in the football game,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “We had the opportunity to do it and get it done. But you can’t make those mistakes that we had and expect to win. We have to play cleaner and be more consistent.”