O'HARA: Adversity always falls on the shoulders of the quarterback

Posted Sep 24, 2013

With Nate Burleson out for extensive time, QB Matthew Stafford is left to shoulder the load of bringing this offense together.

It all falls on the quarterback. Again.

It is a given that Matthew Stafford learned as soon as he began playing quarterback. Whatever setbacks a football team faces, the quarterback is the guiding hand who has the responsibility to lead the team through adversity.

The Lions' offense has taken a big hit with the broken left forearm sustained by wide receiver Nate Burleson early Tuesday morning. Two bones were broken, and Burleson was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday.

The Lions did not immediately put Burleson on injured reserve, leaving open the possibility that he can return before the end of the season.

Burleson will be out for a substantial period of time, forcing the Lions to shuffle receivers to fill the void left by Burleson's absence.

Beginning with Sunday's game against the Bears at Ford Field, Stafford has to push the offense forward without one of its most dependable players.

That's not new for Stafford. He played most of the second half of last season with a receiving corps that was shredded by injuries and the personal implosion of Titus Young that eventually led to him being released.

Stafford and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had to operate an offense late last season with Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, Burleson and Young all missing.

Fitting broken pieces and replacement parts together is part of playing quarterback.

"Absolutely," Stafford said Tuesday afternoon. "This is another situation where you get dealt a certain hand and you go play. That's what we're going to do. There are no excuses to be made. Nothing.

"Next guy up. Let's go play football and play at a high level."

Burleson won't be easy to replace. He leads the team with 19 catches, and he had his best game of the season in Sunday's 27-20 road victory over Washington, catching six passes for 116 yards.

"Obviously, you feel bad for him," Stafford said. "He came off a great game. He was building momentum. He was feeling great. Knowing him, he's disappointed that it happened.

"He's been a big part of our team ever since he's been here, not only with his play on the field but with his leadership.

"But next guy up. That's the way we always preach things around here. Last week, Reggie (Bush) was down and Joique (Bell) came in and had a great game. That's what I expect out of those guys."

Stafford spread the ball around against Washington. Eight players caught at least one pass. Stafford consistently got the ball to receivers for big plays, often with a run after the catch.

Calvin Johnson went over the 100-yard receiving mark with seven catches for 115 yards. A fourth-quarter catch and run by Burleson gained 43 yards. Kris Durham, Stafford's college teammate at Georgia who's in his second season as a Lion, gained 37 yards on his only catch of the game. Bell caught a pass out of the backfield for 37 yards.

At the opposite end of the yardstick, tight end Joseph Fauria had only one catch, but it was for a five-yard touchdown. Stafford saw a mismatch and hit the 6-foot-7 rookie with a high pass that was out of everyone's reach except Fauria's.

There will be a chain-reaction effect as the offense adjusts to playing without Burleson, and it will be hard to replace the familiarity Stafford and Burleson have built in four years of practicing and playing together.

"You've got to have guys learn quick," Stafford said. "We'll make it work. I've got complete trust and faith in all the guys we put out there.

"They're going to make plays for us."