The play of the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III against the Lions was improved from the previous two games. The team was more competitive. There were some signs of hope.
There was, however no victory.
Unlike the previous two games, blowout losses to the Eagles and Packers, the Redskins were in the game at halftime and well into the fourth quarter. Griffin got into rhythm early, made plays with his arms and with his feet and started to resemble the RG3 who won was the rookie of the year in 2012.
Still, Detroit became the first Lions team to come out of Washington with a win. They were 0-21 there before today, a skid that went all the way back to 1939.
“We had too many mistakes a crucial times,” said Griffin. “Of course, the fumble, the interception early in the game.”
Both of the turnovers by Griffin came in Lions territory. The Redskins trailed 14-7 in the second quarter when they mounted a drive from their own 20. On first down from the Detroit 20, Griffin was chased out of the pocket by the Lions’ Willie Young. The defensive end had Griffin’s jersey and was pulling him down when the quarterback fired a pass in the direction of Pierre Garçon, who was tightroping the sideline. But cornerback Chris Houston was right there and he picked off the desperation throw.
“I thought I saw Pierre coming right back towards me on the sideline,” said Griffin. “Then when I watched it on the big screen he had actually stepped out of bounds and the corner behind him kept coming downhill. Another play, you make the play it's a great play, you don't make the play and it's a bad play. And it was a bad play.”
Perhaps the wiser play would have been to throw the ball away or take the sack but instead the drive was killed.
It was Griffin’s fourth interception of the season. All of last year he threw only five.
The lost fumble was perhaps more exasperating. With the game tied at 17 early in the fourth quarter Griffin took off upfield. After a gain of 21 he saw the safeties coming and dove headfirst to the ground. The ball came out after he hit the ground but before anyone contacted him. The Lions recovered the loose ball.
If a quarterback slides feet first, he is down as soon as he hits the ground. But a headfirst slide keeps the play alive until contact is made.
"Knee down, elbow down, that’s the rule. I was trying to declare myself down, avoid the big hit,” said Griffin. “It's the rule. It can be a sucky rule but it's still the NFL rule.”
The Lions answered with a field goal to take a 20-17 lead and there was one more costly miscue by Griffin. After what could have been the play that saved the game, a 57-yard bomb to Aldrick Robinson that was originally called a touchdown before being overturned on replay, Griffin mishandled a snap. He scrambled for it and recovered but the play lost 10 yards. That made it third and 20 and the Redskins punted. Detroit drove 75 yards for the clinching touchdown.
“The one thing you want to make sure doesn't happen in those situations is a negative play,” said Griffin. “And we had a negative play right afterwards.”
Griffin finished the day 32 of 50 passing for 326 yards with no touchdowns and the one interception. It was his third straight game with over 300 yards passing. Given their 0-3 record that is obviously not a formula for success.