COORDINATOR CUT-UP: Linehan says Stafford's play isn't only reason Lions haven't been as good lately

Posted Dec 24, 2013

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says quarterback Matthew Stafford has gotten his fair share of criticism over last six weeks, but losing isturnovers were the biggest problem for his offense the second half of the season

Matthew Stafford has taken a lot of criticism both locally and nationally for his play during the team’s 1-5 slide that ultimately knocked them out of playoff contention.

Stafford has nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 66.4 over that span.

Matthew StaffordQB Matthew Stafford (Photo: Gavin Smith)

"We just haven’t executed as well as we have,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Tuesday when asked what’s been the biggest difference with Stafford between the first half of the season and the second.

"Collectively, it’s a team effort, though. The quarterback is always going to get the attention, positive and negative, it kind of comes with the territory. He’s certainly getting his share.”

Linehan said blame also has to reach farther than the quarterback position.

"To me, the fair way of looking at it is we all need to be accountable whether we played our best or whatever,” he said. "(Stafford) certainly isn’t the only reason why we haven’t been as good. It goes full circle.

"He’s no different than he’s ever been. He’s the same guy that owns every passing record in this team’s franchise history. The reason we’re in games like we were is because of who plays quarterback for us.

"The thing I remind people is remember the quarterback play up until Matthew being added to this football team. He set the bar pretty high for what it was before.”

But the numbers alone say he’s struggled down the stretch. Some of that has been bad luck. Some of it has been players around him not making plays. But, in the end, it always comes back to the quarterback -- fair or not.

"We’re third in the league in offense,” Linehan said. "We’re fourth in the red zone in offense. We can end up second in third-down offense. We can finish in the top 10 in scoring. We can possibly finish first in sacks allowed. These are not very well known stats. Our quarterback is a big reason why we’re there.”

It’s certainly been well documented how explosive this offense can be, and how much Stafford and that big right arm plays a factor. But the reality is those numbers simply don’t carry the same weight when associated with a 7-8 record and a non-invite to the playoffs.

So what’s been the biggest issue holding the Lions back these last six games according to Linehan?

"The turnovers have been the thing that’s been our Achilles heal,” he said. "If we can finish with a fairly turnover-free game (in Minnesota) that’ll be something that will be a good way to cap off the season.

"It’s really been the second half of the season. The first half we were on the plus side. We were getting turnovers on defense and weren’t turning it over multiple times on offense. All that flipped in the second half of the season.

"Some of it was bad luck. Some of it was trying to make a play. It happens when you’re in a competitive game and we were in all (of our games). I think we lost three games on last-second field goals. Eventually, that turns around and goes your way and unfortunately it didn’t go our way in some pretty critical moments.”