After falling behind to Detroit 24-3 early in the second half, Smith helped Washington tie the game midway through the fourth quarter with a patient approach and decisive throws. As usual with Washington, though, it wasn't enough in a crushing 30-27 defeat.
The defense allowed Detroit to kick a 59-yard field goal to win the game as time expired, helped by a 15-yard penalty on rookie end Chase Young. He hit quarterback Matthew Stafford late after an incomplete pass, putting the ball at midfield. After a pass gained 9 yards, Matt Prater drilled a 59-yard kick to win.
It summed up the day: Washington's offense moved the ball and the defense consistently gave up yards and points. It's why Washington fell to 2-7 in the toughest loss of coach Ron Rivera's first season with Washington.
It overshadowed a record day by Smith, who threw for 300 yards in consecutive weeks for the first time in his career. He finished with a career-best 38 completions in 55 pass attempts for 390 yards. He led a game-tying 41-yard field goal drive that Washington figured would force overtime.
Smith converted a third-and-13 from his own 8-yard line as well as a fourth-and-4, thanks to a pass interference penalty.
Washington's defense enabled Stafford to drive Detroit down for a 27-24 lead after Smith had led a touchdown drive to tie the game at 24.
Washington's defense did its job for much of the second half after allowing an early touchdown. It forced two consecutive punts that gave Smith time to rally his team. But on the deciding drive, Washington let Stafford drive from his own 25-yard line to set up a 37-yard field goal.
With the offense moving the ball in the first half but struggling inside the Detroit 30-yard line -- four drives, three points -- the defense kept allowing big plays both on the ground and in the pass game.
Pivotal play: There were plenty; Washington's Dustin Hopkins missed a 43-yard field goal in the first half, but Young's penalty late in the game was a killer. He took a few steps after Stafford had unloaded the ball, and it gave Detroit a legitimate chance to try for the winning points. Young did not apply much pressure during the game and was headed toward Stafford when he unloaded a deep ball -- to an open target. Young will learn from his mistakes, but Washington's defense also needs to do a much better job when needed. So far this season, that has not been the case.
Buy on a breakout performance: Smith isn't going to become Tom Brady all of a sudden, and there will be other challenges ahead. But Smith has looked far more comfortable in this offense than when he was starting for Washington in 2018. He's not always going to attack down the field, but when defenses play man coverage, he can feast. He typically struggles more against zone. And he's not going to throw for 300 yards every week, but he does run the offense well and has done so now for consecutive games. He won't dominate teams, but if he can keep playing like this Washington can sneak another win or two.
Troubling trend: The defense statistically looks good for the most part -- a top-10 unit in yards allowed. But it just doesn't play that way overall. The unit gave up too many big plays in the first half and failed to stop the run as well, even when using five-man fronts. Detroit averaged 6.8 yards per play, which is unacceptable.