Momentum was fleeting after the Detroit Lions’ hot start, and as Amon-Ra St. Brown took a handoff from Jared Goff on an end-around in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Washington Commanders, St. Brown heard a chorus he has made foes utter more times than he can count.
“No one even knew I had the ball,” St. Brown said. “I don’t even think the safety that was looking at me knew I had the ball, and all I hear from the defense is, ‘Oh shit,’ from everyone. And I knew — I knew at that point it was going to be a big play.”
St. Brown broke a 58-yard run one play after a Commanders touchdown to set up a sigh-of-relief score by D’Andre Swift; the second-year receiver delivered several more big plays Sunday as the Lions survived a second-half scare to beat Washington, 36-27, at Ford Field.
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St. Brown caught nine passes for 116 yards and scored the game-clinching touchdown — his second of the day — with seven minutes to play.
He tied an NFL record with at least eight catches in his eighth straight game. dating back to last season, and his heroics and the play of several other Lions — role players and stars alike — helped the team avoid an 0-2 start for the third straight year.
“It feels good to win,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “That’s what it does, it feels good to win. Because there’s a lot of hard work that’s put in it across the board. I think the best thing about it is our guys, they trust in the system, they believe in what we’re doing as coaches and the schemes, and they believe in how we’re setting them up for success and they believe in the plan and they execute the plan. That’s a credit to those guys. They never gave up. They never lost hope and they won’t ever. That’s how we assembled this team.”
In a game the Lions played without their entire starting interior offensive line and with a hobbled Swift in the backfield, they got off to a fast start, scoring the game’s first 22 points and holding the Commanders without a first down until 5:40 was left in the second quarter.
Washington (1-1) scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions of the second half and added one 2-point conversion to cut its deficit to 22-15 and set the stage for a dramatic final 17 minutes.
St. Brown’s long run around right tackle came on a play the Lions spent the entire first half setting up, and Swift scored three plays later after falling to the ground to make a shoestring catch on third-and-15.
“I don’t know if you guys saw, but that whole first half I was motioning across almost every play,” St. Brown said. “I was running across, running back, running across. I feel like, as a defense, at some point you kind of just don’t pay mind to it. And this was a play that we had in this week and we knew if we got it, it would hit big.”
Quintez Cephus made a key block to spring St. Brown on his run, and Swift, playing through a sprained ankle, delivered his own key play against a Washington blitz.
Jared Goff lobbed a pass to Swift in the right flat. Swift fell on his butt as he made the catch, then sprang immediately to his feet and sidestepped a tackle from Washington safety Bobby McCain.
As he cut across the field, Swift picked up a block from receiver DJ Chark and made his way into the end zone.
The Commanders and Lions traded touchdowns on the next three possessions, but Washington failed on a two-point attempt early in the fourth quarter, missed an extra point later in the period and Goff kneeled out the final 52 seconds for the Lions win.
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“That’s what he can do, man,” Goff said of Swift’s TD. “It’s really crazy, and I think again, it’s not necessarily my job, but I know (Lions offensive coordinator) Ben (Johnson) wants to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible. And that’s something that we’re always focused on and I’m always aware of, too, is if he’s in the game and down the field isn’t open, how fast can I get him the ball in space? And let him work and he’s a special player.”
Swift followed his career-best 144-yard rushing day in last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with 56 yards rushing and 31 receiving in limited action Sunday as the Lions used a heavy rotation in their backfield with Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds.
Goff was 20-for-34 passing for 256 yards with four touchdowns, and rookie Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks as part of a dominant defensive display in the first half.
Charles Harris added a safety on a strip-sack and the Lions outgained the Commanders, 250-56, in the first 30 minutes.
The Lions finished with five sacks on Wentz, held Antonio Gibson to 28 yards rushing on 14 carries and added an interception by Will Harris on a deflected Wentz pass in the fourth quarter.
Wentz, drafted one pick after Goff in 2016—Goff by the Los Angeles Rams, Wentz by the Eagles—finished 30-for-46 for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s kind of what we talked about,” Campbell said. “When you get in those moments those guys have to make the play for you. And they did that. And all we can do is, it’s our job to put them in the best position to make those plays when we need them and their job is to make it, and they do that.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Amon-Ra St. Brown makes Commanders cuss, Detroit Lions shine in win