Quarterback Matthew Stafford has started 126 straight NFL games through broken fingers, injured ankles and a bad back. There’s something to be said about being available every week for the last eight seasons.
“It means a lot,” Stafford said Thursday of his current streak of consecutive starts. “Well documented first two years. Missed a bunch. Wanted to prove to my teammates, this organization, myself and everybody that I can be out there for extended periods of time and have been lucky enough to be able to do that.
“It means a lot. Just try to be there week-in and week-out and let these guys in this locker room know who’s going to be under center.”
Stafford missed six games as a rookie due to injury, and 13 more his second season. He was labeled injury prone and soft. That perception is long gone. He’s now considered one of the toughest quarterbacks in the game. Only Philip Rivers (206) and Matt Ryan (145) have actively started more consecutive games than Stafford.
Some have suggested the Lions sit Stafford the rest of the season. The playoffs are out of the picture, so what are they playing for?
Stafford wants no part of it.
“I spend all offseason and all season working hard and playing games with these teammates and for this organization,” he said. “So, I take no games for granted and I go out there and play whenever I feel like I can.”
Lions defensive tackle Damon Harrison gutted through an ankle injury suffered last week in Buffalo and finished the game. But he’s now missed the first two days of practice this week, and his availability for Sunday’s game vs. Minnesota has come into question.
Since acquiring Harrison via trade midseason, the Lions have transformed their rushing defense. It’s not just because of Harrison, but he’s been a big factor. The first seven games of the season the Lions were allowing on average 144.6 yards per game on the ground, which was second most in the NFL. That number has dropped to 86.1 over their last seven games, which are the fifth fewest.
Minnesota has a new mandate under head coach Mike Zimmer to run the football more, and they’re coming off a 220-yard rushing performance on 40 carries last week vs. Miami.
The Lions are already without defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (IR; knee) Sunday, and potentially missing Harrison as well would leave a big hole in the middle of Detroit’s defense.
We’ll see if he’s back on the practice field Friday, or if he even needs to practice this week to still be available Sunday.
RELYING ON THE FRONT
ESPN tweeted out an interesting statistic on the frequency of teams using the blitz to rush the passer this season.
According to their statistics, Detroit has used the blitz less than any team in the NFL this year at just 14.4 percent.
The Lions still rank in the top 12 in sacks with 38. Of those, only seven come from players whose primary job isn’t to rush the passer.
ESPN sent out another tweet a little later in the day on the best pass defenses when blitzing this season. It could explain part of the reason why the Lions choose not to blitz as much.