After their Thanksgiving day loss to the Chicago Bears, the Lions fell to 4-7 on the season, ensuring that they will not improve on last season's 9-7 record.
Although the season appeared to be heading on a path to regression ever since Week 1's Monday night meltdown to against the Jets, it's still an uncomfortable reality check for a team that is coming off back-to-back winning seasons and has a veteran quarterback with an elite skillset.
That quarterback, Matthew Stafford, has become polarizing amongst Lions fans this year. Namely, is he to blame for where the Lions sit? Is he the Lions' g.o.a.t or scapegoat?
It's clear that he hasn't lost the support of his teammates.
“I don’t like to point fingers and I don’t think that it’s his fault," said running back LeGarrette Blount about Stafford’s performance. “I think as a team, we have to do better. I don’t think that you can put all of the blame on Stafford. Obviously, he’s an elite quarterback. I think he’s one of the best in this league. I don’t think that it’s his fault that we can—I don’t think that it’s fair for us to put it all on him.”
Of course, the support of his teammates doesn’t exonerate Stafford for his faults. The pick-six he threw to Bears Safety Eddie Jackson was a turning point in the game.
On the play, Stafford claims to have saw Jackson but thought he could get the ball to his receiver before Jackson got there.
“I saw him coming out of center field, just thought we’d outflank him,” said Stafford. “Thought (Lions TE) Mike (Roberts) was out wider than he was, which was the truth, just didn’t get it to him quick enough. He did a good job undercutting it and made a great play.”
Although he deserves blame for that play, there were several moments in the game where he needed his teammates to step up. Roberts had an end zone pass hit him in the helmet, Kenny Golladay got his hands on another pass in the end zone before it feel incomplete and Roberts wasn’t on the same page with his quarterback for a late-fourth quarter interception, essentially ending the team’s comeback hopes.
Stafford on the Golladay play: ““I kind of wanted it down and in. I mean, high ball, tip, pick situation. So down and in, maybe I’d move it a foot, I don’t know. I’ll have to look at it.”
Stafford on the Roberts interception: “I was thinking Mike (Roberts) was going to be in a different spot, but you know, that’s cutting the ball loose and hoping sometimes that you’re on the same page. And obviously it didn’t work out in our favor tonight.”
Stafford later added: “He’s not supposed to be (anywhere), it’s a feel thing.”
Stafford also acknowledged that preparation may have played a role in the interception by saying: “I mean obviously more repetitions are better, but it’s kind of, he doesn’t run a whole lot of those routes against a corner, off coverage a whole lot, so I was trying to make sure I didn’t hold onto the ball too long. Just tried to get it out and put it in a bad spot.”
Ultimately, the Lions need their franchise quarterback to be the equalizer that overcomes some of their shortcomings – or potentially growing pains – on defense as well as their intermittent running game and injuries.
Stafford hasn’t been that equalizer.
With that said, the coaching staff has failed to put their franchise quarterback in a position that maximizes his ability. They’ve let offensive weapons, such as Eric Ebron and Golden Tate, leave. They don’t seem as prepared as they should be in some positions and their offensive scheme lags behind the clubs that are getting elite quarterback play.