Lions Insider

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Does Matthew Stafford get back on track this week?

Posted Dec 19, 2013

Tim Twentyman answers fan questions as the 7-7 Lions get set for a must-win matchup with the New York Giants

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.

Is Stafford the future for this team? Will he still be if there is a coaching change? John Johnson (@Johnson_rogers)

20man: Stafford is the future.

Not to mention the fact that he's 25 years old and signed through 2017, he's also pretty darn good. Look, he's in a rough stretch. That's no big secret. It's been well documented by both Mike O'Hara and I and other writers both local and national. A lot of quarterbacks go through rough patches, though.

There are probably around 25 teams who’d want Stafford to be their quarterback tomorrow if they could.

I'd like to see some of the mistakes eliminated and for him to manage games a little better in year five, but he’s still got a lot of really good football in front of him. He’s going to continue to get better.

The Lions are committed to Stafford, as they should be.

Do you think @Staff_9 can get back on track this week? Jeff (@jbabs_81)

20man: He better. The Lions can’t afford to lose any more games.

I think other players around him can help with that, too, Jeff. Interceptions are ultimately the responsibility of the quarterback, but other factors do play a part.

Take Stafford’s second interception on Monday night as an example. It looked to me like either Brandon Pettigrew or Kris Durham didn’t get enough depth on their crossing route. Joique Bell had his back completely turned to Stafford and got in the way of Durham, who Stafford was throwing to because he was being rushed by the right defensive end.

It’s still on Stafford to see this all developing and not turn the ball over, but guys could have helped him out on that one.

The first interception was tipped at the line of scrimmage, that’s going to happen.

The last interception was really the bad one. It’s first down, all the Lions need is a field goal, they have all three timeouts, and he airmails the first pass he throws and it’s intercepted by the safety. That just can't happen. That was a rookie throw.

All three interceptions count the same, but again, guys can help him out. They can hang onto the football when he delivers good passes. The Lions again lead the league in dropped passes. They can do a better job getting open.

The Giants are a top-10 defense overall and rank 11th against the pass, but I expect Stafford to come out and have a good performance with his back to the wall and coming off a underwhelming performance on Monday night.

Give it to me straight. Can we or can we not make the playoffs? Steve Meyers (@simplyhowitis)

20man: The Lions have to handle their own business first, Steve, which means beat the Giants. That's all they need to concern themselves with right now.

Chicago could easily lose on the road to a Philadelphia team that fighting to stay ahead in the NFC East.

Pittsburgh could go into Green Bay and win, especially if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get medically cleared to return.

It’s not over for the Lions.

The one scenario that should worry fans – despite the obvious of both Green Bay and Chicago winning and ending all hopes – is if Chicago wins and Green Bay loses this week and the Packers then decide it’s not worth subjecting Aaron Rodgers to the Bears defense with nothing on the line for them Week 17.

It’ll be tough if the Lions have to hope for a Green Bay win in Chicago without Aaron Rodgers the final week of the season.

Why is it so painful to believe in the Lions? David Oltean (@davidpoltean)

20man: Because you’re a fan and they’ve let you down a lot, David.

If you look at it objectively, though, there are signs this team is close.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: Gavin Smith)

They have a lot of young players like Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Larry Warford, LaAdrian Waddle, Riley Reiff, Ziggy Ansah, Devin Taylor and Joique Bell who have already shown they can be good players and are only going to continue to get better.

Then there’s guys like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and DeAndre Levy, who are in the prime of their careers and signed to multi-year contracts.

It seems like the pieces are in place, but there’s always a short window in the NFL.

The front office will decide if they have the right coaching staff in place to lead them.

Do you consider Schwartz's call for a fake FG attempt against PIT the biggest turning point of the season? Jeremy Ratajczyk (@JRat47)

20man: It’s hard to argue it wasn’t, but I’m not going to let the defense off the hook, either. They didn’t have to give up a 97-yard scoring drive following the failed fake.

That was a game they let slip away in the fourth quarter and they did it three more times after that.

My colleague Mike O’Hara took a look at Stafford’s performance before halftime of the Pittsburgh game and then after and the numbers are alarming.

From the start of the season through the first half of that game, Stafford had completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with 3,163 passing yards 20 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 94.7. He also averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with an interception rate of 1.7 percent.

From the last half at Pittsburgh through the Ravens game he has 1,048 yards passing, a 50.5-percent completion rate, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passer rating is 62.6 and he's had an interception rate of 6.4 percent per attempt.

I wouldn’t say the turning point was the fake field goal itself, but the Pittsburgh game in general. For some reason the Lions haven’t been the same since.

What is the Lions biggest need on both offense and defense? Brett Gates (@BrettGates25)

20man: Offense: No. 1 need is a wide receiver. I’m not talking about a slot receiver or a possession receiver, either. I’m talking about a big, fast, playmaker on the outside opposite Johnson. They need a playmaker and they need speed. They need their Alshon Jeffery to Brandon Marshall.

Defense: Cornerback and safety

They could use another playmaker at linebacker, but they haven’t gotten enough impact plays this season from the cornerback or free safety position.

I really like Louis Delmas as a player, but I wonder how much the knee injury and the lack of practice time has affected him and will affect him in the future.

Why didn't Schwartz use any of teams' 3!!!! timeouts to conserve time if the Ravens happened to pull off a score? JOSHUA TRAVIS (@boomshaka9)

20man: Here’s what Schwartz said when I asked him about it:

“Well, at first it looked like they were going to go for it, and then it looked like their field goal kicker sort of talked them into it. But he kicked it with I think 43 seconds. With all three timeouts and 38 seconds and only needing a field goal, we thought that we’d be ok with that.”

I would have used the timeout after the Ray Rice run on third down to save another 30 seconds or so. To me, a lot can happen in 30 seconds.

Sure, it would have given Baltimore more time to think about a fourth-down play or decide to kick a long field goal, but they ended up doing that anyway when they called a timeout after bleeding down the clock.

Given his proven ability how come we haven't seen Reggie return any punts/kicks in clutch situations? Tony Stephens (@T44Stephens)

20man: He can do it, but he’s been banged up for most of the season. I don’t think the coaches want to subject him to any more hits than necessary.

They’ve also gotten a big boost from Jeremy Ross the last month. He’s just as likely to take one to the house as Bush would be.

Earlier in the year I don't think that situation came up where they really had to have a return. They want to secure the football and give their offense a chance to win it.

Can we create some turnovers against a struggling giants offense? Ryan Swindlehurst (@Swindies_Tweets)

20man: If they were ever going to get back on track in that department, Ryan, it would be this week.

The Giants have turned the ball over 39 times this year, most in the NFL, and Eli Manning has thrown 25 interceptions.

New York has allowed six return touchdowns on offense this year (3 INT, 3 FUM). That’s the kind of big play the Lions defense hasn’t had in some time now.

Do u think Calvin’s drops can be attributed to lack of practice during the week? Chris Barnett (@Steel_Red)

20man: There could be something to that, Chris.

Johnson has missed a lot of practice time the last two years as he’s dealt with injuries.

He does work hard when he practices and is always taking extra passes from the jug machine after practice, but there’s no substitute for practice. Maybe a little bit of focus and concentration, too.