The loss was much like others for Washington this season: a train wreck of a first half, an impressive second half and as many positive plays as costly mistakes. The penalty by Young wasn’t the sole reason for Washington’s loss; it was merely last on a long list of self-inflicted wounds.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s just unfortunate it didn’t work out that way. Like I told the guys, we left nine points out on the field and we gave them three. You can’t play against two teams on Sunday — them and us. And sometimes we do ourselves in by some of the mistakes we make.”
Washington tied the score at 27 to give Detroit 16 seconds to try to win it before the game would go into overtime, and the Lions nearly did on a deep pass along the left sideline. But after he overthrew Quintez Cephus, Matthew Stafford was pushed to the ground by Young, and the roughing-the-passer penalty gave Detroit a free first down and moved it 15 yards closer to field goal range.
After Stafford’s quick completion to Marvin Jones Jr., Matt Prater nailed the long kick for the win as the clock expired.
The loss is crushing for Washington’s playoff hopes, minimal as they may have been, but it showed the resolve of its players — especially its quarterback. Smith had career highs in completions (38), passing attempts (55) and passing yards (390); completed 69 percent of his passes; spread the ball to eight different receivers; and, for the first time in his career, had back-to-back 300-yard games. More significant, he turned around an offense that sputtered in the first half.
“I think that the scary part was how normal it felt,” Smith said. “It felt really good; it felt really normal and a little bit of I got to pinch myself of how lucky I am to feel that way.”
The game’s opening sequence was a snapshot of Washington’s greatest frustrations this season. Smith led the offense to the Detroit 14-yard line after completing 22- and 19-yard passes to Isaiah Wright and Terry McLaurin scrambling for five yards himself and turning to his backs to carry the rest.
But a reverse to J.D. McKissic was blown up and resulted in a loss of 10 yards. And then Smith was sacked for a loss of 14 yards. Washington not only lost its chance to finally score a touchdown on its first possession, but the sack took it out of field goal range.
Detroit needed only five plays and 1:52 to score on its opening drive. After the Lions picked up 37 rushing yards, Stafford found wide receiver Marvin Hall, who sped past cornerback Kendall Fuller for a 55-yard touchdown.
Fuller hadn’t allowed a single touchdown in coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Two drives later, he was involved in another long passing touchdown, though it’s unclear whether it was he or cornerback Jimmy Moreland