WASHINGTON (AP) - If the Detroit Lions can't end the streak this time,
then maybe they're forever doomed to lose every time they travel to the
The Lions have never beaten the Washington Redskins on the road, at least not since the Redskins moved from Boston in 1937. The 21-game run of road futility began with a 31-7 beat-down at Griffith Stadium on Nov. 26, 1939.
It looked as if the streak would hit 22 when the schedule came out. Surely the Redskins would be an easy favorite as defending NFC East champions, led by multi-threat quarterback Robert Griffin III.
But Griffin has looked rusty since returning from knee surgery. The defense has been atrocious, unable to cover and unable to tackle while allowing an astounding 511.5 yards per game. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall conceded that Detroit's offense is "probably smiling, chomping at the bit to get out there against us."
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson all but agreed.
"We see the same things that they see," Johnson said. "Obviously, it's a copycat league, and teams try to go back and exploit the same things that other teams have had success with. ... It seems like there are a lot of opportunities."
Five things to look for when the Lions (1-1) try again to buck history against the Redskins (0-2) on Sunday:
RG3 TAKES OFF: Griffin says it's time for him to start running again, if only to give his team a spark. He set a rookie QB record with 815 yards rushing a year ago, but he has carried only nine times for 25 yards this year and has yet to run the ball out of the zone read. Of course, Griffin could be blustering to give the Lions something to think about, but it's not as if Detroit wasn't already aware of Griffin's speedy legs. "You better be ready for it," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "We'll be prepared for him carrying the ball and him handing it off or throwing it. That's not different than any other week."
WHITHER BUSH: Detroit's offense didn't look the same after running back Reggie Bush departed in the second half with a left knee injury in last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. If Bush can't play Sunday, it creates a big hole in the lineup, at least according to baseball fan Schwartz, who compared the Bush-Johnson tandem to another powerful duo from the Detroit Tigers. "If you've got Miguel Cabrera and you don't have Prince Fielder behind him, he doesn't see good enough pitches to hit and they intentionally walk him a lot, and maybe the next guy can hit a sac fly," Schwartz said. "But Reggie's a guy that, if they intentionally walk Calvin, he can go hit a home run."
BAD D: The Redskins defense has been unimaginably bad, particularly susceptible to an up-tempo pace with quick, short passes - as well as anything that involves defending the run. The Redskins have given up 201 yards rushing per game, and quarterbacks are posting a 135.4 rating. There was special emphasis this week on relearning how to tackle. "We've got to put everything together and get your swagger back," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said, "and get your confidence back in what you're doing."
FLAG DAY: Both teams are among the most penalized in the league, and both coaches this week talked about the need to play with more discipline. "We're going to work on that to try to eliminate those silly mistakes," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You can't beat yourselves." However, Shanahan also pointed out that the Baltimore Ravens led the NFL in penalty yards last season. "They won the Super Bowl," he said, "but they were a very aggressive football team."
O-FOR-FOREVER: And what about the streak? Shouldn't the Redskins have extra confidence, knowing they always beat Detroit at home? Shouldn't the Lions have extra motivation, knowing they can bring it to an end? Uh, not really. The teams don't just play each other often enough. The last meeting at Washington was six years ago, and it's hard for today's Detroit players to feel the weight of, say, that 31-10 loss in 1970 when Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders was roaming the field. "I'm not going to say it doesn't bother me, but I can't do anything about it," Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "I wasn't even born at that point in time. If I was playing, it would bother me a little bit more. The way of handling that and taking revenge for the guys that came in front of me like Mr. Sanders is go out there and get the job done this coming week."