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What a finish! Stafford rallies Lions in final minute

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates on the field after throwing the winning touchdown to wide receiver Anquan Boldin late in the fourth quarter.

Detroit – After blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, the Detroit Lions once again pinned their hopes on the arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford. And for the fourth time this season, he delivered a game-winning drive in a 20-17 win over Washington on Sunday.

Stafford needed just six plays and 49 seconds to drive the Lions 75 yards. The drive culminated when the quarterback found Anquan Boldin just short of the goal line and the veteran receiver lunged past a defender for the 18-yard touchdown.

Before finding Boldin, Stafford completed passes of 23 yards to Marvin Jones and 20 to Andre Roberts, who made a difficult leaping catch coming across the middle. Stafford also scrambled for a 14-yard gain.

“He’s just awesome in those situations,” Boldin said. “He comes in the huddle, he’s confident and I think everybody feeds off of that.”

In his 100th start, Stafford led his 24th game-winning drive. He finished 18-of-29 passing for 266 yards and the one touchdown. In The victory, the Lions’ third in a row, moves the team to 4-3 on the season and back into the NFC playoff picture.

BOX SCORE: Lions 20, Washington 17

Prior to the late-game heroics, the Lions coughed up a 10-point lead. After blowing numerous scoring opportunities early in the contest, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins led his team on two long touchdown drives.

After the Lions went up 13-3 on a 27-yard Matt Prater field goal, Cousins snapped the streak of frustrating failed possessions by leading Washington on a nine-play, 79-yard drive, completing a 26-yard pass to Jamison Crowder and a 27-yarder to tight end Vernon Davis, to set up a one-yard scoring toss to running back Robert Kelley. That sliced Detroit’s lead to 13-10.

After the Lions sputtered on the ensuing possession, Cousins put together an 81-yard drive, capped by a 19-yard touchdown run on a read-option. The score gave Washington the 17-13 edge with 1:05 remaining.

“We’ve been running it for a long time here,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “We ran it a couple times in this game and the end crashed and he kept it. It was a great play by Kirk.”

Prior to the touchdown drives, Washington had been effectively moving the ball, driving into Detroit territory on the previous five possessions, but mustered just three points.

Washington gave the ball back to Detroit twice on fumbles. At the end of the first quarter, running back Matt Jones was stripped by Detroit defensive end Brandon Copeland just short of the goal line. The ball popped free into the end zone, momentarily unnoticed before the loose ball was recovered in the end zone by safety Tavon Wilson.

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“I just was hustling and finishing a play,” Wilson said. “That was the easy part. The other guys did all the dirty work.”

In the third quarter, on a third-and-1 from the Lions 34, Cousins coughed it up after tripping on his offensive lineman’s leg. Lions defensive tackle Khyri Thornton got the initial push, forcing the center Spencer Long into Cousins’ path. While going to the turf, the quarterback made an ill-advised attempt to hand it off, leading to the turnover.

On the other three possessions, Washington punted once and settled for a pair of field-goal attempts. Kicker Dustin Hopkins clanged a 45-yard attempt off the left upright early in the second quarter before drilling a 38-yard attempt as time expired in the second quarter, tying the game 3-3 at the half.

The Lions also botched several scoring opportunities. After a bad snap, Prater sent a 49-yard field goal wide left in the opening quarter.

Detroit also stalled twice in Washington territory. Running back Zach Zenner was dropped for a loss on a third-and-1 from Washington’s 24 in the first quarter, leading to a 43-yard field goal for Prater.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lions worked their way into the red zone, but lost yardage on back-to-back snaps when Stafford was sacked and rookie offensive tackle Taylor Decker was flagged for holding. Prater knocked it home from 27 yards to give the Lions the 13-3 lead.

The Lions other touchdown came on the team’s first possession of the second half. On his first target of the game, Jones fought through pass interference to haul in a 52-yard bomb from Stafford down to the 14-yard line. Washington cornerback Josh Norman, who committed the pass interference, suffered a concussion on the play.

Three plays later, Zenner plunged into the end zone from a yard out, his first career touchdown.

After sweeping a three-game home stand, the Lions head to Houston next week to play the Texans.

“I hope we remember this feeling of winning and just continue to do it,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “I’ve always believed that good teams string three, four, five games together whether they’re on the road or at home.”