DETROIT – The Detroit Lions leaned on their dynamic duo for comebacks and they came through again.
Matthew Stafford directed the final drive with just 16 seconds left to set up Matt Prater's 59-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Lions to a 30-27 win over Washington on Sunday.
“We have got a great kicker, who’s good from anywhere pretty much in the building," Stafford said. “It was nice to sneak a drive down there late and have him do his thing.”
Prater, who holds the NFL record with a 64-yarder while with Denver, also had a 53-yard kick in first half. He set an NFL record by making multiple 50-yard field goals in a game for the seventh time. Denver’s Brandon McManus and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker have pulled off the feat six times.
Entering the game, the usually reliable Prater was just 6 of 12 on field goals from 40-plus yards.
“We’ve had too many misses this year already, so I’m hoping that today is a start in the right direction,” Prater said.
It was the third time Stafford and Prater were part of winning, fourth-quarter drives this season.
Stafford threw two of his three touchdown passes in the first half and completed two passes on the final possession. Defensive end Chase Young was called for roughing the passer, giving Detroit the ball at midfield.
“Rookie mistake," Young, the No. 2 pick overall, acknowledged.
Stafford threw a 9-yard pass to Marvin Jones to set up Prater's kick and cap his 37th winning drive, a total that ties former New York Giants star Eli Manning for 10th on the NFL’s all-time list.
The Lions (4-5) won at home for the first time in more than a year after building a 14-point lead at halftime and going ahead 24-3 midway through the third quarter.
Washington (2-7) pulled into a tie by scoring touchdowns on three straight series in the second half in Alex Smith's first start in nearly two years. But its defense could not stop Stafford when it mattered most in the fourth.
Prater made a go-ahead, 37-yard field goal with 2:42 remaining.
Detroit cornerback Desmond Trufant extended the ensuing possession with two penalties that gave Washington first downs and it took advantage, setting up Dustin Hopkins' tying 41-yard field goal.
Washington also came up short in a comeback attempt last week, losing 23-20 to the New York Giants after trailing by 17 points.
Coach Ron Rivera knew what was coming in the final seconds at Ford Field, but his team couldn't extend the game.
“We knew they were going to systematically try and just move the ball forward," Rivera said. “We were trying to wear the clock down, and unfortunately the 15-yard penalty was a huge mistake on our part."
The Lions earned a big lead earlier in the afternoon because Washington imploded when it got past midfield and its defense gave up big plays in the passing game.
Stafford threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Hall in the first quarter and a 27-yarder to Jones in the second quarter, with both wide open. His short toss to D'Andre Swift turned into a 15-yard score in the third period to put the Lions ahead 24-3.
Stafford finished 24 of 33 for 276 yards and threw three touchdown passes without a turnover for the first time this season.
Smith made his first start since breaking his right leg in two places nearly two years ago and had career highs with 38 completions and 390 yards passing. The 36-year-old Smith helped Washington drive into Detroit territory four times in the first half. It made a field goal and had a punt, missed field goal and Terry McLaurin's fumble on the possessions.
“Way too much production, certainly, to go in with only three points," Smith said.
In the second half, Washington got into the end zone on 82- and 84-yard drives and had the ball midway through the fourth quarter down a touchdown. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson capped that with a short touchdown run and Washington pulled into a 24-24 tie.
HE SAID IT
Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker, didn't seem to agree with the pivotal penalty on Young.
“The quarterbacks are treated extra special, so we have to be aware of that," Rivera said.
Swift, drafted in the second round out of Georgia, made the most of his first start with a season-high 149 yards from scrimmage. He had 16 carries, a season high, for 81 yards. Swift also had a career-high 68 yards receiving on five catches to match a season high.
“He’s electric and he’s great to watch," Jones said.
Washington: WR Dontrelle Inman (hamstring) and OT Geron Christian (knee) were inactive. S Deshazor Everett (ankle) and OT Cornelius Lucas (ankle) were hurt during the game.
Lions: WR Kenny Golladay (hip) missed his second straight game and has played just five times this season because of different injuries. WR Danny Amendola (hip) left the game.
Washington: hosts the Cincinnati Bengals.
Lions: play the Carolina Panthers on the road.
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