"Obviously we aren't going to win many games with six turnovers and three returns for touchdowns, including a punt return," he said. "There is nothing else that happens in that game that is going to change that."
This game went off the rails so hard, so fast, that it looked like there were never any rails to begin with. This was a 53-car trainwreck from almost the minute it left the station, and there was absolutely no recovering from it.
Last week, reporters noticed Matthew Stafford wearing gloves in practice. He said it was to help prepare him for the Windy City, but after the Chicago game Stafford admitted he was protecting a broken finger on his throwing hand. It’s tempting to blame his performance on the finger, but the problem is between his ears.
In the Chicago and Atlanta games, we saw Matthew Stafford become a victim of pressure: pass rush pressure, game situation pressure, and high stakes pressure. Even when Stafford had time, he was playing like he didn’t. Chicago was able to generate pass rush without blitzing, or even rushing four—because Stafford assumed the rush was about to get him whether it was or wasn’t.
One of the reasons the Lions decimation of the Broncos was so crucial—or so I thought—was the reestablishment of Lions Awesome. Stafford and the Lions came out and played their game and completely outclassed the Broncos, as they should have. Everyone was laughing and joking and Tebowing and getting their swagger back. With two weeks afterwards to vibe on those good times and prepare for Bears team they’ve already beaten, I thought the Lions would be in the best form all year for the biggest game of the season.
Instead, two freak fumbles on the opening two drives punched the Lions in the mouth—and instead of taking the blow and punching back, the Lions keeled over onto their backs. Throw in the towel, stop the fight, first-round TKO.
If the finger had been bad enough to keep Stafford from playing any better than that, they'd have held him out. The reality is, he again lost confidence in his line and in his receivers. He tried to rally the Lions back from all those turnovers himself, and he just dug the hole deeper. The Lions can’t win like that; no team can.
As I said last week, the first half of the season was the easy part. This is the hard part. This is when it counts. This is when the cream rises to the top. If the Lions are that cream, if they belong in the playoffs, then they’ll bounce right back and whip Carolina. They’ll learn from their mistakes, get better, and Stafford and the wide receivers will play like Stafford and the wide receivers.
All of this, of course, is prologue for Thanksgiving. If the Lions want to establish themselves alongside the Packers and Bears as NFC North playoff teams, they’ll have to take at least one from Green Bay—and since they haven’t won in Lambeau since I was ten years old, the amount of pressure to win on Thanksgiving will be enormous.
Let's hope Stafford and the Lions learned from this game how to prepare for that game.