There’s a lot of ability in this league, so it’s just if you can do it on Sundays and execute on Sundays.” – Rashean Mathis
Rashean Mathis wasn’t talking about the Lions as a team in the above quote. He was talking about second year cornerback Jonte Green. But he could have been talking about anyone on this team. That quote pretty much sums up the 2013 Detroit Lions. A roster filled with, talent, ability, and potential. The problem is that talent doesn’t make a player a good player. Ability doesn’t make a team that can win. And, as the old saying goes, potential is what gets people fired. The Lions are beginning to come to grips with this reality.
The Lions are a team brimming with potential. So much so, that former NFL head coach and current FOX broadcaster, Jimmy Johnson has come in recent weeks saying the Lions have enough talent to make to the Super Bowl. But potential doesn’t win games. As Mathis eluded to, it’s not a matter of talent it’s a matter of performing on Sundays.
No player embodies this more than Matthew Stafford. He’s young, outrageously talented, and yet wildly inconsistent on Sundays. At the beginning of the year, Matthew Stafford looked like finally took a firm step toward greatness. He was consistent, making good decisions, and most importantly winning games. But everything has changed since the bye week. For whatever reason, Stafford has not looked like the same quarterback since making his all-or-nothing leap over the goal line to beat the Cowboys in the final seconds.
He’s now hurrying is throws, making bad reads, and feeling phantom pocket pressure. He looks like a completely different quarterback than the one that entered the season. Let’s take a look at a play that shows all of these bad habits from Monday night.
Score: Lions 10, Packers 12
Time: 11:11 left in the 4rd Quarter
Situation: 3rd & 6 at the Lions 43
Result: Incomplete pass/punt
The Lions faced a 3rd and 6 early in the 4th quarter. Matthew Stafford isn’t aided by Scott Linehan’s choice to run 4 verticals, but it’s his own flaws that really do him in.
Stafford hurries his throw, even though he has a pretty strong pocket. Throughout the second half it appeared that he was feeling pressure that simply wasn’t there. LaAdrian Waddle gives up some pressure on the right side, but overall this is a strong pocket. After all, the Ravens only send three pass rushers. Rather than step up in the pocket and wait for routes to develop, Stafford flings up an off balance prayer down the sideline toward a well-covered Calvin Johnson.
At this point, Matthew Stafford has already let go of the pass. If he would have waited a little longer he would have seen two much more viable options down the field. The first is Joe Fauria in the slot. He beats the linebacker, and although it would have been a tough throw between the linebacker and safety, it’s one we’ve seen Matthew Stafford make in the past. The other option is across the field to Kris Durham in the slot. Durham runs past the cornerback playing zone, and with the deep safety nudging toward Calvin Johnson’s side of the field a big hole opens up on that side of the field.
This is what is so frustrating about Matthew Stafford. He has the talent to be one of the leagues top quarterbacks, but his inconsistencies limit his ability to execute on Sundays.
*All images were created using NFL Game Rewind, unless otherwise noted. (subscription required)
*Quotes are courtesy of mlive.com