. . . this is why I was calling for Stafford to be the starter from OTAs forward. If the object was for Matthew Stafford to succeed as quickly as possible, he needed reps. Moreover, he needed all the reps with the ones. Megatron, Pettigrew, Bryant Johnson . . . he needed reps to develop a rapport with them, to learn their habits. He needed reps to get comfortable with the offense, to get comfortable with their habits. They needed reps to get used to the velocity of his passes, the timing of when he delivers the ball, his preferences when plays break down.
Instead, we see Stafford—a dude with an almost unlimited arm—underthrow Megatron on a fly route. We see receivers break outside, and Stafford throw inside. We see receivers break inside, and Stafford throw outside. Yes, we also see the unavoidable where-did-that-guy-come-from rookie mistakes—but these errors in timing, this confusion about what route should be run, how deep the route should be run, and where the ball should be placed? These should have been happening and getting corrected in training camp and preseason, not in Week 9.
Matthew Stafford will be getting all the blame for this loss—and in and of itself, that’s correct. His five picks turned what would have been a HUGE road victory into another heartbreaking loss. However, I’m seeing a lot of this:
The knock on Matt Stafford in college was that he was inaccurate. Five interceptions today aren't going to change that concern.Let us be clear: the knock on Matthew Stafford wasn't that he was inaccurate. The Lions fans who didn't want to see Stafford drafted heard he had a big arm and decided he was inaccurate. The actual knock on Stafford was that his #1 National QB Recruit status never translated into BCS Title and Heisman success—but Georgia fans will be the first to tell you that that wasn’t because Stafford was holding them back.
This cuts to the heart of the matter: what is "inaccurate"? To me, “inaccuracy” is when the ball doesn’t go where the quarterback means to throw it. A deep linebacker picking off a pass because the quarterback didn’t see him is not “inaccuracy”. A ball thrown one way when the receiver breaks another is not “inaccuracy”. Overthrows, underthrows, balls thrown behind the receiver, those are examples of inaccuracy—and while Stafford did throw several passes like that, so does every quarterback in every game. The interceptions that cost the Lions the game were simply mistakes; mistakes that can be corrected with coaching, mistakes that can be corrected with repetition; mistakes that can be corrected with time.
Let’s not gloss over some really important positives. At one point, Stafford was 11-of-14 for 111 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Brandon Pettigrew—the “bust” that everyone’s been ranting about lately—hauled in 7 balls for 70 yards, including his first TD catch. Kevin Smith got 67 yards on 13 carries, including a crucial 31-yarder in the fourth quarter. Mo Morris and Aaron Brown combined for 8 carries and 47 yards, upping the team rushing totals to 21 carries, 114 yards, and a 5.4 YpC average. The defense looked great in the first quarter, coming up with a HUGE 4th-and-1 stop, where the defensive line pushed the pile considerably. The defense also held the Seahawks to 25 points, despite being essentially unable to stop them from completing a pass. Delmas got a pick, Dizon got a sack, the defense came up with 4 TFLs, forced 3 fumbles, and recovered one.
None of that takes the sting out of another heartbreaking loss. None of that changes the fact that the Lions flipped the script—jumping out to a 17-0 lead with forced turnovers and offensive effectiveness—and still lost. However, they did flip the script. The game was in doubt in the final minute. The Lions were competitive, on one of the hardest road trips an EST-based team can make. Best of all, we got to see a glimpse of the team that Jim Schwartz, Gunther Cunningham, and Scott Linehan are building. They’re nowhere near done—in fact, they’re just getting started. But those who were saying last week that “nothing’s changed since 2008” just got woken up. Let’s hope that next time, they can’t hit the snooze button . . .
Speaking of which, I gotta get that third cup before my head hits the keyboard.