MIKE O'HARA

Schwartz gives an unequivocal "no" when asked if he thought of replacing Stafford

Posted Dec 17, 2013

Matthew Stafford has had a rough go of it since he lit it up in the first half of the Lions' loss at Pittsburgh

The Lions are riding it out with Matthew Stafford at quarterback as he struggles through the bumpiest stretch of his five pro seasons.

Stafford has been in a slump that began in the second half of a loss at Pittsburgh in Game 10 and has continued through Monday night's 18-16 loss to the Ravens that put the Lions' playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

Through the first half of the Pittsburgh game, Stafford was performing at a level that had him on the way to the second best statistical season of his pro career. But the last half of that game and four full games since have been a struggle.

Coach Jim Schwartz has remained supportive of Stafford and said at his press conference Tuesday that he has not considered benching Stafford. He also has given no thought to replacing him during a game with veteran backup Shaun Hill.

"I haven't considered making a change," Schwartz said. "Matt's our quarterback. He's going to remain our quarterback, and he's going to play well for us."

Hill has been productive as the backup in his four seasons with the Lions, but he has never relieved Stafford in a game when Stafford was healthy.

"The answer is no," Schwartz said.

Schwartz's support of Stafford is not surprising, and it's the right thing to do. The Lions aren't going anywhere without Stafford playing at a high level, and he's proven he can do that. However, when he returns to top form remains a question.

Joseph FauriaSchwartz praised Stafford's throw in a go-ahead touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Schwartz referenced the drive Stafford led to the go-ahead touchdown. He hit tight end Joseph Fauria with a 14-yard pass for a 16-15 Lions lead with 2:21 left.

"When would you have made that change?" Schwartz said. "Would you have made it before that drive when we took the lead? Is that when you would have made that change? Would you have made it after we threw a touchdown pass that gave us the lead? Is that the time to replace him?

"That's what you get into. There are not many teams in the league that will yank a quarterback or shuffle a quarterback back and forth. I don't think that's a very productive environment, either."

Stafford's downturn mirrors a slump that has seen the Lions lose four of their last five games.

Stafford was blazing hot in the first half against Pittsburgh, throwing for 327 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions had a 27-20 lead at halftime but ultimately lost, 37-27. Stafford went ice cold in the second half, completing just three of 16 passes for 35 yards with no touchdowns and his only interception of the game.

From the start of the season through the first half of that game, Stafford had completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with 3,163 passing yards, 20 TDs, 7 interceptions and a passer rating of 94.7. He also averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with an interception rate of 1.7 percent.

From the last half at Pittsburgh through the Ravens game, it's been a different story – 1,048 yards passing, a 50.5-percent completion rate, 8 TDs and 10 interceptions. His passer rating is 62.6 and he's had an interception rate of 6.4 percent per attempt.

The final 30 minutes of that game were the personal low point of Stafford's season, but he and the offense have remained stagnant in the last four games.

Against the Ravens, Stafford went 18 for 34 for 235 yards with one TD pass and three interceptions.

It was not a good night for Stafford or for the offense in general. Calvin Johnson dropped two passes that could have led to field goals -- at least. Either play might have been the difference between the Lions remaining in first place in the NFC North with an 8-6 record or their current situation of sitting in third place at 7-7.

Stafford made no excuses in his post-game comments.

"I did not play my best by any means," he said.