FOUR DOWNS: Stafford's slump; no confidence in the offense; Joique Bell and second-half defense

Posted Dec 22, 2013

Tim Twentyman breaks down four keys aspects from Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Giants



Winning football games in the NFL usually comes down to turnovers and quarterback play. That's the dumbed down version, of course, but still the two most important factors in the grand scheme of things.

Look no further than those for an explanation as to why the Lions will be sitting at home in January come playoff time.

The Lions have turned the ball over 21 times in their last six games and their quarterback is mired in the worst slump of his five-year career.

Stafford threw his 11th and 12th interceptions of the last six weeks, Sunday, none more crucial than the pick-six to Giants safety Will Hill with less than five minutes to go that tied the game, helped set up overtime, and, eventually, the loss.

"It’s tough," Stafford said. "We have had two, back-to-back, heartbreakers at home with games that were decided by field goals."

Games where one or two plays ... one or two throws ... one or two fewer turnovers could have made the difference.

Stafford finished 25-of-42 passing for 222 yards with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 53.9. He’s had a passer rating of less than 62.0 in four of his last five games.

Receiver Calvin Johnson was very limited with knee and ankle injuries and played sparingly. That certainly had an effect on Stafford and the offense, but Stafford could have overcome it and put this team on his back.

Stafford hasn't been able to do that since the second half in Pittsburgh a month and a half ago.



Following a Glover Quin interception at the Lions' 25 yard line with 23 seconds left in a 20-20 tie, the Lions decided to run a trap play to Theo Riddick on first down. They then ran out the clock to a chorus of boos from the Ford Field crowd.

Cameras showed head coach Jim Schwartz fired up about the fan response and caught him mouthing something that looked like an expletive.

"I was disappointed to hear boos," Schwartz said when asked about the incident after the game. "We were getting ready to go in to overtime right there. Our crowd is great for us and they support us. I thought our team needed a lift right there.

"We didn’t need to feel bad at that point. We just intercepted the ball that got us to overtime. I thought that just trying to get our team ready and that’s a tough situation when your players are getting booed, you want to keep them fired up and that’s what I was trying to do right there."

The Lions had 23 seconds and two timeouts after the interception and only needed a field goal to win. That’s probably three plays, depending on their ability to get out of bounds.

The only thing that can’t happen in that situation is turning the ball over. By running out the clock, Schwartz showed he either had zero confidence that his offense could make a play or that they wouldn't turn the ball over.

No confidence in the third-ranked offense in the league to make a play?

"There was what 19 seconds, 23, in that situation we didn’t have great field position," Schwartz said. "We tried to run a trap and hoped to break it and try to get a first down right there.

"If we got a first down we would have been ready to jump on it, but we didn’t and at that point I liked our odds in overtime as opposed to trying to take a chance. At that point after the thing right there you have to weigh everything and the chance that we take a sack or have a negative play right there could have ended the game right there."

The only thing with that is a negative play wouldn’t have mattered at all as long as it wasn’t a turnover. The Giants had no timeouts.

That call reeked of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.



Joique BellRB Joique Bell scored his eighth touchdown of the season. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Sunday turned into the Joique Bell show for the Detroit Lions offense after starter Reggie Bush was mostly ineffective and lost his fourth fumble of the season in the first half.

Bell finished with 154 total yards (91 rushing, 63 receiving) and had one of the Lions’ two touchdowns in the game. Bell caught all 10 of the passes thrown his way in the game.

Bush, on the other hand, had just 34 yards on 12 carries (2.8 average), two catches for 10 yards, had a fumble and a key drop in the second half.

Bush has been a terrific free agent acquisition for the Lions this year. He has a chance to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 next week in Minnesota, but on this afternoon, the Lions were glad they could turn to Bell.



Talk about a gutsy second-half performance from the Lions defense.

Down two starting cornerbacks and trailing 13-3 at the half, the Lions defense did not allow a point in the second half.

The second half drive chart for the Giants looks like this: punt, punt, safety, punt, punt, punt, interception.

The performance was somewhat soured when they gave up a 4th and 7 completion in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal, but it frankly shouldn’t have come down to that.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley had a monster of a game with three tackles, a sack and safety and forced a fumble.

Second-year cornerbacks Jonte Green, Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood played admirably given the circumstance.

It speaks to the leadership on defense that unit could step up through adversity and play the way they did.

Unfortunately, the Lions can’t say the same thing about the offense.