Q. Stafford’s status: Is there enough evidence to say thast Matthew Stafford is in a slump?
A. That is a fair evaluation, based on Stafford’s overall play in the first five games, and how it continued in Game 6 Monday night against the Bears.
He’s had some brilliant moments that were reminiscent of how he played for almost all of 2011. He brought the Lions back to beat the Rams and Eagles, and he got them in the lead in the fourth quarter against the Titans.
But based on his combined performance of the first six games, I’d say he’s in a slump.
Q. What are the signs of a slump?
A. The biggest indicator is leading the offense – passing efficiency, finishing drives and scoring points, and the entire offense has been deficient.
Quarterbacks always take most of the blame. It’s the nature of the position. And Monday night, Stafford looked frustrated and, at times, indecisive. That leads to incomplete passes that were automatic for Stafford a year ago.
Just look at the stats for six games: five TD passes and six interceptions and an inability to get on track in the first half of games.
It happened again Monday night. Stafford completed 14-of-25 passes for 105 yards and a passer rating of 66.2.
The Lions didn't score until Stafford hit rookie
Before that, the Lions had a big fumble by
Stafford wasn't the only one who had an off night on offense, but his performance has to be evaluated on its own merits.
Q. What was the biggest example of how he performed?
A. It was late in the third quarter, when the Lions had second and three at the Bears’ 48. Calvin Johnson was open down the right hash marks, and Stafford failed to connect. The ball was high and off target.
On the next play,
Q. Is it time to worry about Stafford’s future, and should Jim Schwartz change quarterbacks?
A. No to both questions. It’s fair to worry about how Stafford is playing right now, but he’s too good, too bright and has too much talent for this to be a long-term problem.
He’ll come out of it.
As for changing quarterbacks,
Stafford is the quarterback of the present and the future. He has to work his way out of this funk.
Q. Strategy: The Lions punted on fourth down after the incomplete pass meant for Scheffler. Right call?
A. Not what I would have done. Even with a balky offense – and with Leshoure and
Q. Faulty start: How important were the first two possessions of the game – a three-and-out by the Lions’ offense, and the Bears’ TD drive?
A. They set the tone – and a familiar one for the Lions, who fall behind game after game as the offense stalls out. They’ve been playing from behind all year, and they put themselves in position to do it again – against a team that’s a front-runner with an outstanding defense.
And there was no excuse for falling behind 10-0 so early.
Q. Early mistakes: What were the bad plays, and what did they mean?
A. Start with the offense. On the third play of the game, Johnson was wide open over the middle, cutting from left to right. Stafford’s pass went through his hands. Johnson was in full stride. With a catch, he could have made a defender miss and been up the right sideline for a long gain.
Instead, it was a drop, a punt, and Chicago’s ball.
And then the defense chipped in with breakdowns.
Q. Defensive leaks: What were the breakdowns on Chicago’s first possession? They led to a TD and a 7-0 Bears lead.
A. Breakdown No. 1 – Jay Cutler scrambled 11 yards on third-and-8 for a first down at the Lions’ 42.
Two plays later, Matt Forte broke through a hole for 39 yards to the seven.
On the next play, Cutler rolled right and hit Brandon Marshall for a TD and a 7-0 lead.
Q. Bears escape trap: What was the biggest breakdown by the defense in the first half?
A. It had to be letting the Bears get out of the hole when they had third-and-11 at their own one-yard line on their second possession of the third quarter. Cutler hit Marshall for 18 yards. Marshall split Smith and two other defenders to get the first down.
The Bears got to the Lions’ 29, and the possession ended on a blocked field goal. That kept the deficit at 10-0, but the defense could have given the offense good field position by holding on that third-down play at the one.
Q. Suh slam:
A. Absolutely clean and legal. The fans booed, and that’s OK. They’re supposed to support their team. But Suh did nothing wrong. When a 305-pound lineman with momentum falls on a quarterback, chances are good that there will be an injury.
It was a football play, and nothing more.
Q. Leshoure fumble – for sure: The Lions were driving – finally – but Mikel Leshoure fumbled on first down at the Bears’ 18 with 1:22 left in the half.
Was it clearly a fumble?
A. It was a fumble, no question, and the automatic replay review in the last two minutes upheld the call on the field. It looked like Leshoure was twisting to get another yard on the play, and the ball came loose when Leshoure was hit. That was a mistake by Leshoure.
You do that on the goal line, not on first down when the best you can do is make it second and eight or nine. Take the no gain and survive to play on second down. It was bad judgment by Leshoure.
Q. Logan fumble:
It was Logan’s second fumbled punt of the game and third in two games. He was still used as the return man after the second fumble. What’s up with that?
A. I would have changed punt returners. Two fumbles in two games do not warrant getting a chance for No. 3.
On Sunday, Devin McCourty returned a kickoff for a TD for the Patriots but fumbled away another kickoff. Bill Belichick had him off the return after the fumble.
Q. Bottom line: How much did losing hurt the Lions in the NFC North?
A. If it didn’t wreck their chances, it put a big dent in them.
The Bears lead the North at 5-1. The Lions are three games behind at 2-4. They would have been in the race at 3-3.
Now they can see the race – but from long range.
They’re looking up at the entire division, as the only team with a losing record.