Lions film review: Breaking down the game-winning drive

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Every week we try to find an interesting play, sequence or theme to evaluate from the previous weekend's Detroit Lions game. What better series to look at from the team's 20-17 victory over Washington than the game-winning drive.

Anquan Boldin launches the ball into the crowd after scoring the game-winning touchdown.

1:05, 1st-and-10, Detroit 25

Detroit comes out with four wide receivers, two to each side of the formation, a single back and quarterback Matthew Stafford in the shotgun. Washington counters with five defensive backs in a Cover-2 zone. Marvin Jones and Andre Roberts run crossing routes with Roberts running the shallow cross from the right slot at a five-yard depth and Jones, starting wide left, breaking right at 15 yards deep.

Two shallow defenders bite on Roberts, but Stafford is forced to step up in the pocket when guard Graham Glasgow loses his block on defensive tackle Ziggy Hood. While on the move, Stafford makes his best throw of the drive, dropping his arm slot and delivering a cross-body sidearm shot through a narrow lane. The anticipatory pass doesn't have a lot on it, but finds Jones in stride for a 23-yard gain.

Under duress, on the move, Matthew Stafford hit Marvin Jones with a cross-body, sidearm throw.

:45, 1st-and-10, Detroit 48

Detroit sticks with the same formation, but the receivers work the outside portions of the field. Washington rushes four and their wide alignment immediate opens a run lane up the middle, but Stafford shows discipline, waiting for his receivers' routes to develop. The clock is altered when Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan comes free on a twist, forcing the quarterback to scramble.

Stafford is able to pick up 14 yards before he's stopped and the Lions use their first timeout to stop the clock.

Matthew Stafford tried to hang in the pocket and make a throw, but pressure from Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan forced him to scramble.

:38, 1st-and-10, Washington 38

Same formation from Detroit, same coverage scheme from Washington.

Roberts, operating out of the right slot, runs a square in, breaking at 10 yards. He gets immediate separation, but Stafford's throw is high and wide. Washington linebacker Will Compton has eyes in the backfield and is in good position to take advantage of the mistake, but Roberts makes an improbable grab, leaping up, tipping the rocket to himself, and gaining another eight yards after the catch.

Washington linebacker Will Compton was in position to intercept Matthew Stafford's errant throw but Andre Roberts bailed his quarterback out with a difficult catch.

:31, 1st-and-10, Washington 18

Washington finally switches it up, blitzing with rookie safety Su'a Cravens and playing tight man coverage on the outside. Stafford decides to take a shot, lofting up a well-placed throw to Golden Tate, running a go route along the left sideline against cornerback Greg Toler. The receiver ends up making a tough leaping catch despite blanket coverage, but is forced out of bounds by Toler before he can get his feet down.

:26, 2nd-and-10, Washington 18

Washington blitzes Cravens again and running back Zach Zenner whiffs on the pickup. Stafford wants to get the ball to Tate in space, but Craven arrives before the receiver's escape route can develop. The quarterback delivers early, as opposed to taking the sack, resulting in an incompletion.

Zach Zenner whiffed on his blitz pickup, forcing Matthew Stafford to throw the ball early.

:22, 3rd-and-10, Washington 18

For the first time during the drive, the Lions change their personnel and formation, subbing Roberts out for tight end Clay Harbor, who lines up off right tackle. The three receivers -- Jones, Tate and Anquan Boldin -- line up to Stafford's left with Jones wide, Boldin in the middle and Tate closest to the formation.

Washington is back in a Cover-2 zone. They rush three, dropping eight into coverage, aiming to clutter the passing lanes on the third-and-long. Boldin, running a delayed post, was always the primary target. Stafford zeroes in on the veteran receiver from the snap and Compton, reading the quarterback's eyes, is in good position to make the play when the ball is released on the receiver's break.

The window is so small it's nearly non-existent. Boldin gets separation from his coverage, but Compton has inside position on the route. Somehow, the ball slips by his outstretched arm into the receiver's hands as Boldin plunges into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Despite a defender in the passing lane, Matthew Stafford was able to connect with Anquan Boldin for the game-winning touchdown.

"I cut it loose and kind of thought to myself, ‘We’re either going to win the game or lose the game on this one,'" Stafford said after the game. "I’ll take that every time. I mean, I throw an interception right there, it’s on my back, I’m fine with it, being aggressive, trying to score, Anquan ran a great route. Obviously, caught the ball and got in, just a really nice play."