It was a historic day for quarterback Alex Smith. Aside from making his first start since his life-threatening injury two years ago, he also had back-to-back 300-yard games for the first time in time in his career.
The only thing missing was the win.
Despite a rousing comeback and a career-high 390 yards from Smith, Washington dropped its second straight game, 30-27, and fell to 2-7 on the season.
Washington has had to fight back from double-digit halftime deficits all year. It found itself in that situation once again, as failed red-zone opportunities and explosive plays allowed the Lions to take a 17-3 lead.
"We didn't make plays in the first half," head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. "We got down to the red zone twice and went backwards twice. We get down to the red zone and miss a kick. At the end of the day, when you get down to the red zone, you've got to put points on the board, and we didn't."
Statistically, Washington had the upper hand on the Lions. It had 467 total yards, completed 46% of its third downs and held the ball for more than 35 minutes. But with the score tied and only 16 seconds left on the clock, the Lions kicked a 59-yard field goal to take the lead as time expired.
Washington's first half against the Lions looked eerily like last week's against the New York Giants. While D'Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson were slicing into the front seven, quarterback Matthew Stafford was gashing the secondary. After Washington was forced to punt on its opening drive, Stafford connected with Marvin Hall for a 55-yard touchdown, capping off a five-play, 92-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead.
Washington responded with a 38-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins, but Detroit was back in the end zone two drives later. This time, it was Marvin Jones who found the end zone on a 27-yard score.
Smith and Washington's offense, which got into the red zone twice in the first half, seemed like it started to find some momentum in the final minutes before the break with an 11-play drive. However, Terry McLaurin coughed up the ball at Detroit's 33-yard line, which Stafford used to drive down the field and allow Matt Prater to kick a 53-yard field goal and extend the lead to 17-3.
"Honestly, I was stunned before [halftime] that we had three points," Smith said. "I felt like there were nine point, easily, that we really didn't walk away with. It was hard to swallow."
It looked even worse when Detroit padded its lead in the third quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard receiving score from Swift. But then Washington's offense finally started to come alive, as Smith orchestrated an 82-yard drive, which included a 4th-and-13 conversion at the Lions' 17-yard line that set up a two-yard touchdown from J.D. McKissic.
From that point on, Washington seemed to have its way with Detroit on both sides of the ball. The defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs, while the offense ripped off 150 yards and two touchdowns from Antonio Gibson. With just over six minutes left, Washington had come back from a 21-point deficit to tie score, 24-24.
Prater and the Lions finally responded with a 37-yard field goal to retake the lead, 27-24, giving Smith and the offense just over two minutes to either tie or take the lead. The offense moved its way down the field and was kept alive by multiple defensive penalties. Facing a 3rd-and-15 from Detroit's 34-yard line, Smith completed an 11-yard pass to Steven Sims Jr., which set up a Hopkins' 41-yard field goal that tied the score.
But with 16 seconds left and the Lions still in possession of all three timeouts, the offense, aided by a roughing the passer from defensive end Chase Young, moved down the field and put the ball just inside of Prater's range for the game-winning kick.