Lions at Redskins: Five things to watch
Once the dirty water starts pouring out, the Detroit Lions historically haven't been able to turn off the faucet.
One or two losses often have turned into an season-wrecking losing streak, just like the eight-gamer to end last season, the familiar five or six-gamers each year seemingly forever and, oh yeah, those unprecedented 16 straight losses in 2008.
The last two times the Lions have finished with a winning record, most recently in 2011, it's been largely because they haven't gone on a losing streak of more than two games either time.
The best way to avoid one of those crushing streaks is to respond after the first loss, which the Lions have a chance to do Sunday at Washington coming off last week's disappointment in Arizona.
Here are five storylines to follow:
1. WINNING IN WASHINGTON?
Speaking of streaks, the stunning 0-21 record on the road against the Washington Redskins is nothing to C.J. Mosley, who started last week for the Lions at defensive tackle.
"I played at Mizzou," Mosley said, referring to the University of Missouri. "We were 0-and-forever against Nebraska. We eventually beat them."
The streak- breaker came in 2003, Mosley's junior year. Missouri not only ended a 24-game losing streak against Nebraska, but also a 45-game streak against top-10 opponents and a 20-gamer against the top-25.
"When you get a monkey that big off your back, you can't do nothing but be happy," Mosley said. "It was a great feeling."
The Lions will try to get this 21-game gorilla off their backs, although the current cast has had little, if anything, to do with the streak. The Lions have played at Washington only once in the last 15 seasons. That was in 2007, Calvin Johnson's rookie year. Johnson, center Dominic Raiola and long snapper Don Muhlbach were the only players on the team back then.
"I don't feel like I'm inheriting it," quarterback Matthew Stafford said of the streak. "I'm just going there to play a game."
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh added: "The way of handling that and taking revenge for the guys that came in front of me like Mr. (Charlie) Sanders is go out there and get the job done this coming week. I would rather create a new future. So go out there and get a win."
2. SPECIAL TEAMS CONSISTENCY
The Lions were optimistic about improving their special teams under new coordinator John Bonamego.
So far, it hasn't been pretty.
Micheal Spurlock, who replaced Stefan Logan as the return specialist, looks surprisingly hesitant for a player with his experience. He nearly botched a kick return last week before stopping at the last second, just inches from bringing the ball across the goal line. He also lost 6 yards when he backtracked and then ran sideways on a punt return.
Meanwhile, David Akers missed a 52-yard field goal, got a mulligan when Arizona was called for running-into-the-kicker, but then missed from 47, too, partly because he was a little shaken up from the previous contact.
Later on, Akers' 47-yard attempt got blocked when the man coming off the edge went untouched.
"He's a consistent kicker," coach Jim Schwartz said, defending Akers, who replaced the retired Jason Hanson "He'll make many more of those kicks than he misses. We've got a lot of trust that David will make those plays for us."
Rookie Sam Martin showed some youthful nerves when dropped the snap as the holder on a field-goal attempt in the opener, but he appears to be settling in and could give the Lions a potential weapon as the punter.
Spurlock and Akers, however, are veterans who are expected to be more consistent, and need to be if the Lions are going to win this phase of the game.
3. BRING ON THE BLITZ
Stafford rarely gets a chance to exploit blitzing defenses because opponents typically want to keep as many defenders deep as possible to try to contain Johnson and the deep passing game.
This week could be a little different.
The Redskins have a reputation for being an extremely aggressive, blitz-happy defense under long-time coordinator Jim Haslett.
Stafford and Johnson can't wait.
"They like to pressure, like to bring blitzes," Stafford said. "It's exciting for us as an offense to have an aggressive coordinator against us."
Johnson turned a quick slant into a 72-yard score against Arizona. The Lions could hit some more big plays in similar fashion if Stafford recognizes the pressure and connects with the hot receiver on those blitz calls.
4. THE RETURN OF BROYLES
Ryan Broyles, who underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last December, could make his season debut.
A year ago, he was coming off the same surgery to his left knee and made his first appearance in Week 3 although he didn't actually catch a pass until the sixth game.
The Lions have taken a cautious approach in getting Broyles back in the lineup, partly because they weren't certain how much of a workload he could handle.
But the situation has changed a little with receiver Patrick Edwards suffering an ankle injury.
"I think he's ready to go," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told reporters when asked about Broyles' status following Thursday's practice.
5. PREPARING FOR RGIII
Teams rarely make the playoffs in the NFL after starting 0-2. It only gets worse at 0-3.
So you can imagine the desperation that the Redskins will be playing with on their home field after opening up with losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay.
They also have a quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who will be trying to show he's still the same talented player despite coming back from a knee injury suffered in the playoffs last season.
Griffin averaged eight rushing attempts per game for 54.3 yards as a rookie. He finished with 815 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
While Griffin insists he's fine, he appears to have lost some of that mobility, at least temporarily. He has nine rushing attempts so far for 25 yards, averaging 2.8 per carry.
The Lions say they won't be fooled by the numbers.
"I'm not going to read into that," defensive lineman Jason Jones aid. "We're expecting him to go 100 percent. He's still RGIII."
Lions running back Reggie Bush is officially listed as questionable after practicing Friday for the first time since injuring his left knee in Sunday's game at Arizona.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who missed the Arizona game because of a shoulder injury, has practiced the last three days and is also questionable.
Edwards is out while safety Don Carey (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jason Fox (groin) are both doubtful.
Washington has four starters – defensive ends Kedric Golston (abdomen) and Stephen Brown (knee), safety Brandon Meriweather (concussion), and kicker Kai Forbath (groin) – who are listed as questionable.
Lions + 1
(Dye's prediction record: 2-0)