Lions Insider

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Can Stafford lead the Lions to the playoffs?

Posted Nov 27, 2013

Tim Twentyman answers fan questions as the 6-5 Lions get set for a huge division matchup with the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving

Every week during the season I plan to answer 10 good questions I receive through my Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman," which is sponsored by Huntington Bank.

In a 5 game season how much confidence do you have in Stafford leading us to the playoffs. Jake Cullinan (@JustJake981)

20man: Part of the reason I’m looking forward to the next five games is for that very reason, Jake. We get to see what Stafford is made of in his fifth year.

I’ve always thought Stafford played his best when his back was to the wall. He’s already led 12 fourth-quarter game-winning drives in his career.

The Lions are currently in first place in the NFC North, so I’m not sure this really qualifies as having their backs to the wall, but they missed out on an opportunity the last two weeks to separate themselves from the pack. They've also lost two straight.

The Lions have invested more than $100 million in Stafford because they feel he’s the quarterback who can lead them to the playoffs and make them a consistent winner.

Stafford has all the talent to lead them to the playoffs this year. And make no mistake, the Lions will make or miss the playoffs on Stafford’s right arm.

Stafford has a career passer rating of 88.5 in the month of December and I think he can get it done these last five games.

If the Lions could take any one player from another team to play with Detroit for the rest of the year, who'd help us out the most? Michael Wittingen (@wgl2424)

20man: If I could pluck one player from another roster it would be Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.

Peterson would fill two needs. He’d be the playmaking cornerback the Lions have sorely missed and would also be a top-tier return man.

The Lions have just one interception from the cornerback position this year (Chris Houston).

The way the Lions defense is currently constructed, if they make the playoffs, they would have a very tough time defeating a team like New Orleans and their passing attack.

A cornerback of his caliber is exactly the kind of talent this team needs moving forward.

Why do they continue to try to run @ReggieBush between the tackles when they see it is not working? Get him the ball in space... Keith Kuchek (@KeithKuchek)

20man: There needs to be a healthy balance of both, Keith.

The most effective rushing schemes attack all parts of the field. Bush proved over the last two years in Miami that he could handle the load running between the tackles.

A look at the averages says Bush doesn’t struggle up the middle as much as you think he does.

Bush is averaging 5.6 yards per carry when he runs inside the tackles to the left, 4.9 yards inside the tackle to the right and 4.9 yards up the middle, according to STATS, LLC.

When he’s run outside the tackle on the left he’s averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Outside the right tackle it’s 4.4. Bush has actually run 94 of his 160 rushes outside of the tackles.

He’s actually been more effective this season running inside the tackles. Go figure.

With pressure up the middle again, albeit against a v. good dline, is a new C now more likely in 2014, despite Dominic Raiola’s good season? Rod LeGybe (@RodLegybe)

20man: I think Raiola has played very well this year. Out of 11 games, I thought the Lions faced too much pressure up the middle in two games – Green Bay (Week 5) and last week against Tampa Bay. That’s not a bad percentage.

I give Raiola a lot of credit for putting on the weight and muscle this offseason. It’s really paid off and I think he’s played consistent all year. He loves this game and wants to hold on as long as he can.

His play this season has bought him at least another year, in my opinion.

The play of guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford have certainly benefitted Raiola, too.

Raiola will be 35 before the year is over, however, and the Lions do have to start thinking about his eventual replacement; whether that’s currently on the roster, via the draft or in free agency.

I'm in NJ. Is there a lot of heat on coach? It seems team is too good 2 be this inconsistent. David Vasconcellos (@djvasco67)

20man: This team is very talented, but it has its flaws, too, David.

I just go back to the winter meetings in Arizona this past spring, when the beat writers sat down with Jim Schwartz, and he used the word “urgent” when talking about this season.

I think he sensed how important this season was for him at the time.

I have no idea what Mr. Ford, Bill Ford or Martin Mayhew have discussed in terms of expectations for this season. I can only say that not making the playoffs would be a huge disappointment for everyone involved, especially after the 6-3 start.

Who do we have to step in if Chris Houston can't go? Is Bill Bentley healthy and can he start? Ken Sever (@ffsever)

20man: Bentley is healthy, but the Lions like his skill set inside in the nickel. He started his career outside, and it was an adjustment for him moving inside, but I think he’s really picked it up and embraced the role. I thought he’s played well lately.

If Houston can’t go on Thursday then rookie Darius Slay will get his third start of the season. Slay is raw and needs experience, but he does have a nice skill set. He just needs to make a play to get things going.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Do you believe Scott Linehan is to blame for the offense's inability to make adjustments in the face of adversity? Michael Nichols (@5CentMikey)

20man: When the offense struggles, everyone deserves a little bit of the blame. That includes Linehan.

Linehan, however, didn’t throw four interceptions last week. He didn’t fumble the ball. Linehan didn’t overthrow an open Calvin Johnson for a touchdown. He didn’t drop the ball.

I’ve always been of the thought that players win or lose games. It’s just too easy to lay the blame on the coordinator and that gives the players a pass for a bad performance.

There have been times when the Lions have been slow to adjust to what defenses are doing. But there have been other times when they’ve done a good job.

The second half vs. Pittsburgh was one of the times they struggled.

They adjusted to the man coverage scheme against Dallas from the get go.

Again, credit the players for some of the good and bad, too.

Players have to be able to be able to execute in the run game against favorable defensive fronts when a team changes their scheme in the second half, like the Bucs did to stop Johnson last week.

There are times when we all haven’t liked a play call. Myself included. I cringe every time I see the offense in the shotgun on third-and-1. Just ask Mike O’Hara, who sits next to me in the press box.

The Lions do have a quarterback, receiver and running back that rank in the top 10 in yards for their position. That’s not bad.

Special teams. A poorly-executed fake FG, a blocked punt, misses from Akers, and kick returners. What gives? Colton Wesley (@Lionsfanatic7)

20man: They’ve been good as a coverage unit. Sam Martin has been a great draft pick at punter. But, you’re right, after that, there’s been a lot of miscues.

There are a lot of first- and second-year players on the units. I don’t know if that plays a factor at all.

I know the mistakes have to be killing Schwartz, though, because this team has a philosophy on special teams to not make mistakes. The Lions would be just fine if a returner fair-caught the ball all game long as long as he didn’t turn it over or put the offense in a bad spot.

The Lions want consistency and efficiency from their special teams. They’ve gotten that in some areas and not in others.

They have to sure it up these last five games, though. One blocked field goal or punt could be the difference between the playoffs and early tee times.

Are the Lions keeping Ryan Broyles and Mikel Leshoure? Darrell Fernandis (@Goooodman1)

20man: They’ll let Broyles rehab his Achilles tendon all offseason and maybe start him on the PUP list next year. They’ll see where he’s at and go from there. I don’t think they’ve given up on him yet, but they can’t count on him being the player they thought he was going to be, either.

It’s very likely they draft a receiver early next year or sign an established free agent.

Chris Houston, Ndamukong SuhCB Chris Houston and DT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

As for Leshoure, he can’t be happy with his role and Bush and Joique Bell aren’t going anywhere next year. He’s not a bad insurance policy to have, but I’m sure Mayhew will listen to offers from other teams in the offseason.

What is up with our secondary? Is it the scheme we're running, or play calling, or confidence? Sweet Jones (@iLLifeMike)

20man: I don’t think cornerback Houston or safety Louis Delmas have played as well as coaches thought they’d play.

Slay has also taken a little longer to develop than coaches had hoped.

Let’s not look past the defensive line, either. Defense is truly a team effort and the lack of pressure at times this year hasn’t done the secondary any favors. It all works together.

The Lions hope it will comes together the last five games of the season, but it’ll likely be addressed in the offseason.