WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins gambled that quarterback Scott Mitchell couldn't beat them yesterday, and they were right.
The Redskins jammed the line of scrimmage to stop Barry Sanders and gave Mitchell the chance to give the Detroit Lions their first victory ever in Washington.
Mitchell couldn't do it.
Although he passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns, Mitchell fumbled twice and threw his first overtime pass right into the arms of veteran cornerback Darrell Green.
With help from linebacker Rod Stephens, who dragged him up when Green stumbled at the 5-yard-line, Green went seven yards for the touchdown that gave the Redskins a 36-30 victory Lions before 52,332 at RFK Stadium.
Green, who has given up critical fourth-quarter passes in the Redskins' past three losses, then disappeared in a mob of players congratulating him.
"I've seen that stuff on TV where they're smashing a guy like that. They almost killed me," Green said.
It was a sweet victory for Washington, which had made an art form of losing close games this season and was being booed when the Lions took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter.
"Two-and-6 would have been horrible. Right now, it's great to be 3-5. We've got opportunities ahead of us to try to reach .500 and to try to climb back in this thing," guard Ray Brown said.
The victory matched the Redskins' victory total in last year's 3-13 season and Brown said, "You know anything can happen. You look at the scoreboard, you see Jacksonville winning, you see Charlotte [Carolina] winning, why not us? Really. Why not us? It can happen for us, but you have to believe."
For Detroit, which is now 0-18 in Washington including two playoff losses and has lost 17 straight to the Redskins since 1965, it was a devastating loss.
Coach Wayne Fontes said, "Oh, we're down. We're in a deep hole right now. I think we'll bounce back."
Mitchell's eyes were glistening in the Detroit locker room as he said, "You just hate to have a game end like that with a big play. To be honest with you, I hate to be the player to have that happen to. But the sun's going to come up tomorrow."
The big difference in the game was that the Lions committed four turnovers and the Redskins none.
The Lions also got a bit carried away in using Sanders, who got 76 yards in 20 carries, as a decoy against a Washington defense that was stacked up against the run.
In the second quarter, trailing 13-3, the Lions had a first down on the Washington 2 and didn't run Sanders.
Mitchell threw three straight passes to Herman Moore, and Tom Carter made the play all three times. Jason Hanson then kicked a 20-yard field goal.
Mitchell said, on second thought, he would have run Sanders if they had to do it all over again.
"Later on, we talked about that and thought maybe it wouldn't have been a bad idea if we got into that situation again to probably do it [run Sanders]," he said. "You hate to second-guess yourself, but we were never really in that situation [again]. We felt running the ball wouldn't be a bad idea in the future."
If it hadn't been for Mitchell's fumbles, the passing strategy would have worked for the Lions.
After the Lions took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter, they forced the Redskins to punt and took over on their 20 with a chance to take control of the game.
Instead, Mitchell fumbled when he was sacked by Mike Flores on the first play and Tim Johnson recovered on the 21. Six plays later, Terry Allen, who ran for 110 yards, scored on a fourth-and-one play to tie it 20-20.
Detroit took a 23-30 lead on field goal by Hanson. The Redskins went ahead 27-23 on Gus Frerotte's 13-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ellard, who made a diving catch in the end zone, and Brett Perriman scored on a 51-yard touchdown play -- when Green collided with Scott Turner -- to give the Lions a 30-27 lead with 3:21 left in the game.
After the teams traded punts, Eddie Murray's 39-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation sent it into overtime.
The Redskins won the toss in overtime, but stalled at the Detroit 36. Coach Norv Turner declined to let Murray try a 51-yard field goal and Washington punted. The Redskins downed it at the Lions' 4.
On first down, the Lions called a pass to Johnnie Morton that they had used all day. Green, looking for something quick, jammed Morton.
"I don't think he [Mitchell] ever saw me. I was able to jump in there and make what most people think is the greatest play in the world, but I know as a cornerback, it's just something that worked out for me," he said.
But Green, who wasn't upset when fans were booing him earlier in the game when the Lions were throwing on him, didn't get too excited about the interception.
"If you really get deep about things, how big a deal is this, really?" Green said. "I don't live my life that way because if I did, man, my kids would have a pitiful dad and my wife would have pitiful husband."
For the Redskins, though, it was pretty big deal.
"Well, we won a close one, huh?" Norv Turner said.