"You're supposed to win the games you're supposed to win," Pete Wysocki, "but not like that."
"Thank God for small miracles," said Joe Theismann.
"We even talked about not letting down," said Ron Saul. "So what happens? A big letdown."
"This," John Riggins concluded, "is the first sign of a championship team."
Good teams win on bad days. But those were no paper Lions the Redskins overtook in the final 90 seconds here yesterday - and for ever so long it seemed as though Detroit would be touched with all those small miracles.
For five straight weeks, the Redskins had played exceptionally well. They also had gotten nearly every positive break known to man. The wonder was what would happen on a day the Redskins overestimated themselves and an ordinary team played inspired football.
The answer came yesterday.
The Lions made more one-handed catches in the second half than most teams grab in two years. The born-again Theismann resembled the old Theismann once or twice. Jean Fugett said: "The reason the running game didn't go was me."
In a game of odd twists, one of largest ironies was a small Lion miracle eventually working against the Lions when they needed to move within field-goal range in the final seconds.
This day the fellow called Raisin' Kane was doing just that against the Redskins. He bounced off Harold McLinton and scored the touchdown that had the Lions well into a sideline victory celebration that proved premature.
And Kane made a one-handed catch of a pass that moved the Lions to the Redskin 45 with 30 seconds left. It was a play that would allow Brad Dusek to smear quarterback Gary Danielson and all but assure victory for Washington.
"I'd been faking a blitz, trying to get Kane to stay back there," Dusek said. "But he kept going out - and he made that catch because I couldn't recover in time after he slipped by me on the fake."
Chris Hanburger noticed that very trend. So the next play he called a blitz - and then hoped Kane would react as thought it was another fake. He did.
"Kane was supposed to pick me up," Dusek said. When he took that same pass route, Dusek was on Danielson before he took his proper drop, and tackled him for a 15-yard loss. That put the Lions in an almost impossible position with no timeouts left.
"It was a little bit of a gamble," Hanburger said. "But we had to keep them out of field-goal range."
The Redskins were angry at themselves for mustering only one sack against a team that had allowed an average of five the first five games. Coy Bacon let Danielson slip-slide away in the first half and complete a 15-yard pass to the Redskin 10.
"He's a strong quarterback," Bacon said. "He planted his foot and swung me around. He stepped up as I was coming around my guy. I grabbed his jersey, but he twisted away from me."
Diron Talbert was equal parts frustrated and optimistic.
"We're not used to giving up that many points, unless it's a good team," he said. "We made Detroit look like a good team out there. The problem was just too many missed tackles. We'd be running our hands down the backs of those running backs instead of bringing them down.
"But the game showed me as much as any game all season, even more than the Dallas game. That's hard to believe, I know, but it's the truth."
"Well, they outguessed us some. And even outplayed us some. But we were able to come back. We were able to do that in '71 and '72, when we had Larry Brown. We started the season with a whole lot of guys who we didn't know knew how to win. And then we added some more.
"But we had the skill to recover."
As Saul, whose holding penalty nullified another John McDaniel catch in the end zone, admitted: "Donnie Harris (with that blocked punt the Redskins recovered for a touchdown) saved us the first half.
"There was absolutely no way we (the offense) were going to score. We didn't get fired up and get at them until the fourth quarter."
The domed stadium was part of the problem, Theisman and some others said. "It was like playing inside a television set. It was like my game in Texas Stadium," Theisman said.
"It's sort of an unreal atmosphere - and I was mesmerized for awhile, flippin' out until somebody knocked my block off."
Still, the Lions managed to go 1-5 for the season and maintain some humor. At least Danielson did.
The quarterback, making his first start of the season, said the Redskin defensive line "was sold it was like blocking our coaches." He added that McLinton kept asking him and others on offense why they were playing with such abandon.
"We told him," Danielson said, 'it was because we want to stay here."