Stafford acknowledges he needs to play better, but won't change aggressive style

Posted Dec 20, 2013

Stafford acknowledged Friday that 10 interceptions in his last five games are too many, but says he’ll never lose the aggressive nature in which he plays the game

Matthew Stafford knows he needs to play better if he’s going to guide the Detroit Lions to the playoffs.

There’s certainly been a correlation between his play over the last five weeks and the fact the Lions have lost four of their last five.

From the start of the season through the first half of the Pittsburgh game (91/2 games), Stafford had completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 3,163 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a passer rating of 94.7. That included a 27-point second-quarter performance in that game.

From the second half at Pittsburgh through Monday’s loss to Baltimore (4½ games) he’s been an entirely different player. He’s completing just 50.5-percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions and his passer rating has dropped to 62.6.

"There are definitely throws that I wish I had back," Stafford said Friday. "I feel like I’ve made some good plays, but bottom line is winning and losing games. They make a field goal at the end of the game to win it. We have a chance to come back. We don’t get it done with 30-something seconds left. That’s a tough pill to swallow."

Stafford hasn’t let the criticism that's gotten louder and louder regarding his recent play get to him, however.

"I don’t want to hurt y’alls feelings, but I don’t really listen to it or read it honestly or hear about it," he said. "It’s actually been pretty stress free for me.

"Obviously, I want to play good. Not for you guys, but for my teammates and for the coaches in the locker room. They put a ton of hard work in. We are all doing everything we can to play as good as we possibly can. I’m not different."

That’s not to say he doesn’t think the criticism is warranted, though.

Stafford has the worst fourth-quarter passer rating in the NFL over the last five weeks (29.5) and knows that blame always starts with the quarterback when losses pile up. Just as the quarterback gets the praise when things are going well.

"Anytime you’re losing games it’s going to be tougher," he said. "You have to write about something and talk about something. We understand that. That’s why it’s good to be in that locker room and away from media and all that kind of stuff throughout the season.

Stafford also said he needed to take better care of the football moving forward, but reiterated he’d never change the way he plays quarterback in terms of taking shots down the field.

The Lions have an aggressive offense and look to make plays down the field in their passing game. That’s never going to change under offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, especially with a big-armed quarterback like Stafford.

"I don’t think that’s the way to play the game," Stafford said of playing scared or intimidated. "You can’t do that. You can start going down that road. I don’t have that problem.

"This is a league and we play as an offense that’s aggressive. If you don’t have confidence in yourself… everybody on our team has to have confidence to play this game. The quarterback position is no different. If you struggle with that then you are probably in the wrong profession."

Head coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged Friday that his quarterback can – and will – play better.

He doesn’t, however, want him to start playing passive and dinking and dunking the football around the field trying not to make mistakes.

"Obviously that is not a good situation," he said. "I said this earlier in the week, there is an easy way to not turn the ball over and that’s to take a knee every time you are on offense. Obviously that’s ridiculous. You’re never going to win a game doing that.

"Then the other side of that, the exponential other side of that, is when you are fumbling or turning over every single play. There’s a balance to it."

Schwartz often uses baseball analogies with the press to break things down in simpler terms and he had had one ready for Stafford and the slump his quarterback is currently going through.

"Everybody likes my baseball analogies," Schwartz said with a smile. "Nobody is trying to strike out but sometimes you strike out.

"You have to go up to bat the next time and put that one behind you and go up and work your technique and go get a hit the next time."

The Lions need Stafford to starting hitting these next two weeks if they have any hopes of reaching the playoffs.