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Washington Vs. Lions Preview: Next Stop, Motor City

Jonathan Allen rushes the passer against the Detroit Lions in Week 12 of the 2019 season. (Garrett Campbell/Washington Football Team)
Jonathan Allen rushes the passer against the Detroit Lions in Week 12 of the 2019 season. (Garrett Campbell/Washington Football Team)

After suffering a 23-20 loss to the New York Giants, the Washington Football Team will play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Here's everything you need to know before the Week 10 matchup:


Date: Nov. 15

Time 1 p.m. ET

Location: Ford Field (Detroit, Michigan)


  • Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play)
  • Aqib Talib (analyst)
  • Megan Olivi (reporter)

LISTEN: The Team 980, ESPN 630 and WMAL 105.9

  • Julie Donaldson (host)
  • Bram Weinstein (play-by-play)
  • DeAngelo Hall (analyst)

A stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at and on select Washington Football Team social media platforms.


  • Washington leads the all-time series, 31-14.
  • The two teams first met in 1932 when they were known as the Boston Braves and Portsmouth Spartans, respectively. The Spartans won the game, 10-0.
  • The teams' last three matchups have been decided by seven points or fewer, the last of which came in 2019 when Washington converted a 39-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to take a 19-16 lead.
  • Washington and Detroit have met in the playoffs three times, the most recent coming on Jan. 8, 2000. Washington holds a 3-0 advantage.
  • Washington won 18 consecutive games against the Lions from 1968-97, including a 31-7 Wild Card win in 1983.
  • Washington will face Detroit on the road for the 21st time. The team is 9-11 in such matchups.



  • Head coach Ron Rivera (1st season in Washington)
  • Offensive coordinator Scott Turner (1st)
  • Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor (2nd)


  • Head coach Matt Patricia (3rd season in Detroit)
  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (2nd)
  • Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs (1st)


-- Alex Smith's first start in almost two years: Quarterback Alex Smith has appeared in relief for Kyle Allen twice this season, but Sunday's game against the Lions is going to be a little different for the 16-year veteran. Smith will start in an NFL game just three days before the two-year anniversary of his life-threatening leg injury.

"For me, [I'm] kind of going full steam ahead," Smith said after the game. "I'm not thinking about any of that other stuff going on with this opportunity. I am so thankful for it. I am going to make the most of it."

Smith was forced into the lineup against the Giants once Allen went down with an ankle injury. He led the offense to a field goal on his first drive and helped the team score 17 more points, including his first touchdown pass since the injury. Smith ended the game 24-of-32 for 325 yards.

"Given who he is and the way he came back," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday, "it doesn't surprise me to a degree that he's got an opportunity and he earned an opportunity."

Smith's day was not flawless, though; he threw three interceptions, including two that cost Washington the game in the final five minutes. Still, the offense looked proficient with Smith under center, and he had poise in the pocket against the Giants. A full week of practice with starting reps should help Smith be more prepared to help Washington claim its third win of the season.

"Alex is an early guy and a late guy," Rivera said. "He does everything that you're supposed to do, and he does it the right way."

-- Facing off against Adrian Peterson: Adrian Peterson was Washington's primary running back for the past two seasons, and despite being the second-oldest active rusher in the NFL, he had a successful stint with 1,940 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sunday will be the first time Peterson will face off against his former team.

Peterson, who had his club option exercised by Washington in the offseason, came into training camp with a trio of other running backs -- Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber -- who carried high expectations from the coaching staff. He was released prior to the team releasing its initial 53-man roster, and Rivera said the decision was made because of where the offense was headed. Plus, he wanted to give the younger running backs a chance.

"Adrian is a true pro. I was fortunate to just be with him this summer." Rivera said in September. "But, watching the way that he handled himself, handled the other players around him, epitomizes him as a football player."

The Lions signed Peterson two days later, and he has still been productive as the team's leading rusher with 350 yards and two touchdowns. He will be an intriguing challenge for Washington's defense, because unlike other running backs the unit have faced this year, Peterson spent all of training camp practicing against Washington's defensive front. Peterson admitted to the Detroit Free Press he is looking forward to the matchup, but he also said he appreciates his time with Washington.

"It was a great journey and great opportunity," Peterson said. "They allowed me to show that I can still play this game at a high level. I will always have love for the DMV area. It was critical for my career. It's a reason why I'm still playing in this league now at a high level."

-- Another chance to ignite the running game: Washington's ground game has been volatile so far this season. There have been performances like the 208 yards it had against the Dallas Cowboys, but it has also struggled like it did against the Giants with 37 yards on just nine carries. The team will get the chance to improve Sunday against the Lions, as they rank 29th in rushing defense and allow 148.1 yards per game.

Washington has averaged just 92.3 rushing yards per game, but it has been able to take advantage of weaker rushing defenses. Against the Cowboys, Gibson exploded for 128 yards on 20 carries, including a 40-yard run in the first quarter. The Lions have allowed two 100-yard outings this year, including 168 yards from the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones and 208 yards from the Minnesota Vikings' Dalvin Cook.

Washington's offense looked its best when Gibson and the rest of the team's running backs received a healthy amount of carries against the Cowboys. Finding a way to repeat some of that success will be critical if Washington wants to remain competitive in the NFC East standings.



  • Passing Yards -- QB Dwayne Haskins (939)
  • Passing TDs -- QBs Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen (4)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Antonio Gibson (391)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Antonio Gibson (5)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Terry McLaurin (692)
  • Receiving TDs -- TE Logan Thomas WR Terry McLaurin (3)
  • Tackles -- LB Jon Bostic (59)
  • Sacks -- DE Montez Sweat (5.0)
  • Interceptions -- CB Kendall Fuller (4)


  • Passing Yards -- QB Matthew Stafford (2,127)
  • Passing TDs -- QB Matthew Stafford (14)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Adrian Peterson (370)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB D'Andre Swift (4)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Danny Amendola (401)
  • Receiving TDs -- TE T.J. Hockenson (5)
  • Tackles -- LB Jamie Collins Sr. (56)
  • Sacks -- DE Romeo Okwara (5)
  • Interceptions -- S Duron Harmon (2)



  • Total offense -- 30th (306.4 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 30th (19.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 26th (214.1 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- 30th (26)
  • Rushing offense -- 29th (92.3 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 27th (38.1%)
  • Total defense -- 5th (314.3 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 11th (23.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 1st (185.6 YPG)
  • Sacks -- 4th (27)
  • Rushing defense -- 23rd (128.6 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 12th (40.4%)
  • Time of possession -- 25th (28:48)
  • Turnover differential -- 29th (-6)


  • Total offense -- 20th (359.0 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 19th (24.6 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 15th (257.9 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- T-19th (19)
  • Rushing offense -- 24th (101.1 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 20th (41.2%)
  • Total defense -- 24th (392.0 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 28th (30.0 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 18th (243.9 YPG)
  • Sacks -- T-25th (11)
  • Rushing defense -- 29th (148.1 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 27th (48.0%)
  • Time of possession -- 26th (29:03)
  • Turnover differential -- T-20th (-2)