- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000


PONTIAC, Mich. The Washington Redskins' $100 million roster, freshly stocked with Pro Bowlers and playmakers, turned in an error-filled fourth quarter yesterday against the Detroit Lions.
The final period included three interceptions by quarterback Brad Johnson, who finished with a career-high four picks, and a pair of critical penalties by Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith, the offseason's most high-profile additions, on the Lions' final scoring drive.
The home-stretch mistakes led to a 15-10 defeat before a noisy sellout of 74,159 at the Silverdome, leaving Washington (1-1) with a serious reality check after its season embarked with hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.
"We kept backing ourselves against the wall, and we can't do that," Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "You keep shooting yourself in the foot against a good team on their home field, and eventually one of those bullets is going to get you."
It ultimately took a number of stray shots to down the Redskins, who outgained the Lions (333 yards to 244), had more first downs (20 to 15) and a slight edge in time of possession (1:50) but couldn't convert the points.
"We were hurting ourselves early in the game," Redskins wide receiver Albert Connell said. "With as good as this offense is, we shouldn't be in that [fourth-quarter] situation. That's how I feel. We should put teams away early."
Kicker Jason Hanson made all five of his field goal attempts, including a 54-yarder, for all of Detroit's points. The Lions (2-0) are undefeated despite scoring no offensive touchdowns this season.
"It's disappointing," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "Our defense did an awful lot of good things out there, especially inside the 20, holding them to field goals. Most of the time when you hold a team to field goals, you find a way to win the game."
As Washington's defense continued a season in which it has yielded just one touchdown, its offense had Johnson's four interceptions and just 59 rushing yards (on 17 carries) by running back Stephen Davis. Johnson otherwise completed 23 of 35 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown.
"The crowd wasn't a factor; the pass rush wasn't a factor we didn't give up any sacks," said Redskins right guard Tre Johnson, who made his debut following a one-game suspension. "We just didn't get it done in terms of turnovers, and we didn't execute the running game as well as we could have."
Detroit got another solid defensive performance and just enough production from quarterback Charlie Batch and running back James Stewart.
Batch, who was injured for last week's 14-10 win at New Orleans and who signed a $31 million contract extension midweek, completed 16 of 31 passes for 194 yards with two interceptions. Stewart, who had just 1 yard on five rushes in the first half, finished with 65 yards on 21 carries, propelling the possession in which Detroit took the lead for good.
Johnson's first interception, on the first play of the second quarter, was simply a bobbled ball by normally sure-handed fullback Larry Centers. Lions defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett plucked the ball from midair and rumbled 78 yards to the Redskins' 2. Detroit's offense, however, settled for a field goal and a 6-0 lead.
Johnson then guided a 75-yard, 13-play touchdown drive to take a 7-6 lead. He converted four third downs on the possession, including the 5-yard scoring pass to tight end Stephen Alexander on third-and-goal.
But the Redskins' offense never got going when it counted most. Johnson's second interception was an attempted throw-away downfield; the third a ball ripped by Bryant Westbrook from the hands of Irving Fryar; and the fourth a slightly late throw on which Terry Fair stepped in front of Connell.
"We were behind during the fourth quarter, and we tried to force some plays, make some things happen," Brad Johnson said. "We played good enough to win. The cards just went their way today."
The Lions went up 9-7 on their first possession of the second half, driving 51 yards in seven plays. Johnnie Morton (five catches, 88 yards) started things with a 27-yard up-for-grabs reception over Champ Bailey, and Stewart found a groove after a terrible first half. Hanson capped the drive with the 54-yarder, the third-longest field goal in Lions history.
The Redskins took a 10-9 lead on their next drive, going 62 yards in eight plays. Wide receiver Michael Westbrook caught 21- and 16-yard passes, but suffered a sprained knee while being tackled on the second. Johnson added a 20-yard scramble on the possession and a 26-yard field goal by Brett Conway capped it.
But a 44-yard kickoff return by Detroit's Desmond Howard, the Redskins' 1992 first-round pick, set up the 33-yard drive that gave the Lions a 12-10 lead. Stewart was the possession's key, going 27 yards on five carries. Hanson's field goal was a 37-yarder.
Johnson's second interception set up a 65-yard, 11-play drive that gave Detroit a 15-10 edge.
The Lions were faced with an early second-and-12, but Morton beat Sanders for a 23-yard gain, and Sanders committed a 15-yard face-mask penalty at the end of the play. A holding penalty then led to a Lions third-and-20, but Smith was penalized 15 yards for roughing Batch. Detroit got an automatic first down, and Hanson kicked a 35-yard field goal six plays later.
The Redskins' final shot ended with Johnson's final pick. The Redskins used another big scramble by Johnson to get to the Lions' 38-yard-line, and an offsides penalty moved them to the 33. But Fair stepped in front of Connell on the next play, ending the game with 49 seconds left and leaving the Redskins with mistakes to mull before this week's Monday Night contest against Dallas.
"We wanted to be 2-0," Turner said. "Anyone who looked at this game and thought it was going to be easy doesn't know a lot about playing in Detroit. I thought they did a lot of good things. I thought we did an awful lot of good things but we made too many mistakes."

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