Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. The Detroit Lions stumbled thorough their second consecutive loss at Ford Field. Is the magic fading already? Not hardly, but the Lions have to right this ship soon. Is Matthew Stafford regressing? The passes that looked Pentagon precision-like earlier in the year are starting to be mere inches off target. You know the old saying, “this is a game of inches”. Those inches are starting to add up to some bad numbers.
I’m starting with the play of Matt Stafford because, for as average as the Lions were yesterday against the Falcons, had number 9 been a little more accurate with his passes, we would be marveling at how the Lions were 6-1 while not playing their best game yet. Instead, we’re 5-2 with the Bears breathing down our necks in the Norris division.
Coach Jim Schwartz stated last week that winning games against good teams that are READY for you is part of the maturation process for a young team. In a way, this is a little like last year when they spent the first 12 weeks learning how to win against ANYBODY. Now they have to refine that thinking, and be able to put away teams like the Falcons and 49ers. The Lions have reached a point of respect so that beating them is a cause for celebration. I’ve read in more than one account that the Falcons celebrated yesterday’s win like it was the Super Bowl. Hopefully, this is another rung to overcome in the ladder to get to the playoffs.
Even though he’s running for his life more often than not, Matt Stafford can do better than this. Watching replays of that pass that sailed over Calvin Johnson’s head for what would have been a sure 65 yard touchdown pass should make Stafford sick to his stomach. The other two wide receivers aren’t helping much either. Is Nate Burleson possessed by the spirit of Bryant Johnson? Because he’s turning invisible in front of our eyes. Titus Young started out hot but lately has been looking the part of the overwhelmed rookie.
Stafford is surrounded by one the best supporting casts in the league and eventually his skills will be matched by his experience. It’s tough growing up in front of the world. My problem lately has been what I call “shaky play calling” by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. The Lions were 1-12 in third down conversations against the Falcons, combine that with last week, and the offense is 3-27 for third downs in the last two games. That’s a stunning statistic. To me, that’s more on the coordinator than the quarterback. How many times do the Lions have to waste a first down by running into a wall at the line of scrimmage before they try a couple of passes? Hasn’t he ever heard of using the pass to set up the run? How about moving the pocket once in awhile?
We knew it was going to be a wild ride this year, and right now we just went over that first hill and came whooshing down to the bottom again. I have faith that this IS a playoff team, and they just have to muster up some strength and climb that hill again.