In the midst of the Detroit Lions sub-par 4-8 season, it is easy to point fingers as to who is at fault.
Now, the fingers could be pointed at the defense for not stopping the opposing team’s offense enough. It could be the receivers dropping many passes. It could even be the coaching staff and the front office not finding improvements for the team.
One point many are failing to see is the poor play of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
It would be completely unprofessional of me to blame the entire season on Stafford, but it is justifiable to say he has had a key role in the team’s struggles.
A year after becoming just the fourth quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season along with 41 touchdown passes, Stafford has struggled mightily in 2012. Lazy mechanics, indecisiveness and a lack of consistency have been downfalls for Stafford this season.
Sure, the offensive line could block better and more consistently and the receivers can stop dropping passes (which they lead the league in), but Stafford has been the epitome of inconsistency.
In the past, the side-arm passes and throwing off the back foot have worked for Stafford, when he only did it a couple times a game. However, he is attempting those types of throws more and more, and that is having an effect on the team’s play.
Unfortunately, the effect is a negative one. Using those throws are just more examples of how he has had poor mechanics this season.
Other than bad mechanics, Stafford has had points where he has played just downright awful and has made costly mistakes.
Take a look at the game on Nov. 18 against the Green Bay Packers. Stafford had many overthrows and poor decisions in the 24-20 loss. First Stafford made a mistake while the Lions were driving down the field already ahead 10-7. Stafford threw one of those sidearm passes right to a Packers defender rather than a Lions receiver.
After the defense returned the ball back to Stafford following an interception by cornerback Jacob Lacey, Stafford then fumbled the ball and the Packers recovered. Nothing came out of that turnover either, but back-to-back turnovers is usually detrimental to a team.
In the second half, more misthrows happened and it did cost Stafford and the Lions. After another possession that saw the Lions driving, Stafford threw a pass behind wide open tight end Tony Scheffler, which was intercepted by cornerback M.D. Jennings of Green Bay, who returned it 72 yards for a touchdown that gave the Packers the lead. Stafford was not on the same page with Scheffler for much of that game.
Another one of Stafford’s struggles is his knowledge of football situations. The last two games, the team has needed to get into position for a game winning field goal, but Stafford failed to do so.
In the game against the Packers, down by one point, he threw four incompletions in a row to seal the defeat. In the Thanksgiving game against Houston, the same situation came up, only this time with the game tied.
A third down came up and the Lions needed just ten yards to get into position for the game winning field goal, but instead Stafford threw the ball into double coverage 50 yards downfield and fell incomplete. The pass forced overtime, where the Texans ended up winning.
As I said, it is not fair to blame the season on Stafford, however, the struggles begin with him, and he must improve in the next five games. If he doesn’t, the Lions will likely be making plans for an early first round draft pick in April.