PONTIAC, Mich., Sept. 10 The Washington Redskins lived dangerously for a second straight week, and this time they didn't make the plays or get the breaks in crunch time to escape. The result was their first loss of the season, as the Detroit Lions intercepted Brad Johnson four times and turned five field goals by Jason Hanson into a 15-10 triumph today before 74,159 at the Silverdome.
It might have been a costly defeat indeed for the Redskins (1-1), who hope to know more Monday about the severity of an injury to wide receiver Michael Westbrook's left knee. Westbrook twisted the knee as he landed on his left leg while being tackled following a third-quarter catch, and he played only one more play. Redskins officials were hoping for the best--a minor sprain--but privately fearing worse about a knee that has bothered Westbrook in the past.
Detroit cornerback Bryant Westbrook, No. 32, takes the ball away from Redskins wide receiver Irving Fryar for an interception in the fourth quarter at the Silverdome.
(Rich Lipski - The Washington Post)
In a somber postgame locker room, cornerback Deion Sanders blamed himself after the Lions threw the ball repeatedly in his direction. Defensive end Bruce Smith said he was bewildered about being called for a key roughing-the-passer penalty. But the Redskins defense didn't permit a touchdown and the special teams mostly avoided calamities, while an offense that ranked second in the NFL last year was left searching for early season answers.
"They didn't play well defensively," Redskins wide receiver Albert Connell said. "This was us. We're better than that, and we have to fix it right away. . . . We have all those lofty goals. The way we're playing right now, we're not going to get to them."
Two of Johnson's interceptions were balls that got to his receivers. Fullback Larry Centers juggled a would-be reception on the first play of the second quarter. The ball bounced to defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett, who made his first NFL interception and rumbled 78 yards down the sideline before being tackled at the Washington 1-yard line by Redskins guard Tre Johnson. The Redskins made a gritty goal-line stand to limit Detroit to a field goal, and they took a 7-6 lead into halftime after Brad Johnson's five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Stephen Alexander 4 1/2 minutes before the break.
The Redskins took a 10-9 advantage into the fourth quarter after a 26-yard field goal by place kicker Brett Conway, with Coach Norv Turner electing against trying for a first down on fourth-and-inches from the Lions 9. But Johnson threw three fourth-quarter interceptions. One throw sailed far over the head of all the receivers to safety Kurt Schulz. Veteran wideout Irving Fryar allowed a sideline pass to be swiped off his shoulder by cornerback Bryant Westbrook.
And, with the Redskins driving toward a possible game-winning touchdown, cornerback Terry Fair stepped inside of Connell on a short post pattern on a first-and-five play from the Detroit 32. Fair grabbed the ball and fell at the 20, and two kneeldowns by quarterback Charlie Batch left the Lions with a 2-0 record despite still being without an offensive touchdown this season.
"We put our defense in a lot of bad spots," Tre Johnson said. "We let them down. We're a better offense than that. I don't think anyone can stop our offense if we don't stop ourselves. We need to get better now. . . . The crowd wasn't a factor. We just didn't get it done."
Turner said: "Most of the time, if you hold a team to field goals, we're going to find a way to win. Anyone who looked at this game and thought it was going to be easy doesn't know what coming to Detroit is. We made too many mistakes."
It was a more than acceptable defensive effort by the Redskins, who have held opposing offenses to one touchdown in two games. Rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington took on a more prominent role, perhaps a precursor to being promoted to the starting lineup, and the Redskins limited the Lions to 244 yards. Cornerback Champ Bailey made two interceptions. But the Lions threw in Sanders's direction early and often, something he rarely has experienced in his football life.
"They came at me every which way they could," Sanders said. "I pretty much got my butt kicked out there. I thought I prepared in practice. It's the worst I've played in my 12-year career. I don't remember ever giving up that many catches."
Perhaps the key play in the game was Smith's personal foul on Batch. The Lions led 12-10 in the fourth quarter, but faced a third-and-17 play from their 47.
Turner said: "If that's going to be called on every play, I'd like to have it called for our guy. That's not letting Bruce Smith do what he does."
Some in the Redskins' locker room suspected the call was made in part because a helmet-to-helmet hit on Batch by Redskins safety Sam Shade in the second quarter had gone unpenalized. The hit came on the play that produced Bailey's first interception and resulted in Lions Coach Bobby Ross screaming at referee Jeff Triplette.