NOTEBOOK: Stafford showing toughness and accuracy

Detroit's season would have teetered awfully close to spiraling out of control a couple weeks ago had they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles at home and dropped to 1-4.

But Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford put the Lions on his back, and aided by some defensive plays late,  guided Detroit back on track. He did the same thing last week in a win over the Rams. Now the Lions are 3-3 and back in the thick of things in the NFC.

Stafford is receiving a lot of love for his play early on this season, play that's been highlighted by both his toughness and accuracy.  

No one has ever really questioned Stafford's toughness. He hasn't missed a game since 2010, and Sunday's game against Washington will be the 100th start of his career. He's been making a lot more plays with his legs recently, and hasn't shied away from any contact in doing so.

Week 2 vs. Tennessee, Stafford tried picking up a 3rd and 7 by lowering his shoulder and running over Titans cornerback Perish Cox, before taking a vicious hit from safety Damion Stafford.

"I used to love, still kind of do, the physical part of the game," Stafford said Wednesday, when asked how also playing linebacker growing up shaped his toughness. "I think we don't get to block, or run over people, or do a whole bunch of stuff that tough guys get to do at quarterback.

"But, there's a way to show it. Just try to be in there as much as I possibly can, be available and all that kind of stuff. Playing linebacker probably helped me get that."

Stafford had a career-high 159 rushing yards in 16 games last season. He already has 94 yards this year in six games. It's been a weapon for the Lions early on this season, and something defenses don't necessariliy have to prepare for, but they have to be aware of.

"It's still tough for me sometimes to slide," Stafford said. "Obviously, if I have the first down it's easy, go ahead and slide. But, if it's a third down play, you know, I'm still trying to be a runner. I'm trying to help our team get a first down if I can, but hopefully don't have to show my physical toughness too much."

In terms of his accuracy, Stafford is having a career year. His 68.9 completion percentage ranks second in the NFL. He's also endured 15 dropped passes by Lions pass catchers, the most in the NFL.

Stafford said his comfort level in this offense is a big reason why he's playing at such a high level right now. The players around him see the same thing.

"I mean, he knows where to go with the ball," receiver Anquan Boldin said of Stafford. "He has a good idea of what defenses are trying to take away from him. He does a great job of getting us in and out of the right plays. He knows what to do with the ball."

Stafford is 146-for-212 for 1,648 yards so far this season. He's led the Lions to back-to-back wins and a .500 record, and has three come-from-behind fourth-quarter wins under his belt.

He's thrown 14 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.

"I'm my own worst critic, so if I wasn't completing a high enough percentage of balls for our coach, I was going to go out there and try to complete more of them," Stafford said.

"That's just a bunch of hard work. The experiences, the more comfortable you are with what you're seeing and what you're looking at, the more comfortable you're going to play, the more accurate you can be as a passer."

Stafford said it's not enough anymore just to complete a pass, but to also try and make sure the pass catcher is getting the ball in a great running posture so he can make a play afterward.

It's the maturation quarterbacks start to go through six, seven and eight years in the league.

BACK AT PRACTICE

After undergoing offseason foot surgery in early June, receiver Corey Fuller returned to practice for the first time on Wednesday.

A sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2013, Fuller played as a backup the past two seasons. He caught four passes for 76 yards in 12 games for the Lions last year, and has 18 catches for 288 yards over the past two seasons.

The Lions now have a three-week window to add Fuller to the 53-man roster from the PUP list or place him on injured reserve, ending his season.

Currently, they have just four receivers on the roster – Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts.

GROSS VS. NET PUNTING AVERAGE

Sam Martin is happy that his gross punting average went up slightly after Sunday's game against the Rams, keeping him above the 50-yard level, but he's more interested in having a high net average.

Martin leads the league with a net average of 47.0 yards on 21 punts through the first six games. Net average is computed on gross yards, minus return yards, divided by number of punts.

Martin averaged 52.0 yards on two punts against the Rams to lift his gross average from 50.1 yards after five games to 50.2. The Rams managed to return only one punt, for just two yards. That made Martin's net average vs. the Rams 51 yards.

"The stat I'm more concerned about is my net average," Martin said. "You can't net high unless your gross is high."

MAKING IT COUNT

Safety Rafael Bush can reflect back on Sunday's victory over the Rams for what it means to make the most of limited opportunities.

Bush played only 10 of 58 defensive snaps against the Rams, but two of them contributed heavily to the 31-28 victory. Bush assisted Glover Quin on a tackle that kept Rams receiver Kenny Britt out of the end zone on the next-to-last play of the first half. The defense stopped Todd Gurley on a run on the final play of the half to keep the Rams from getting any points.

Bush's interception ended the Rams' last possession and clinched the victory.

"You make the plays that come to you," Bush said. "All of our games have come down to it (the end). Lately, we've been finishing it. Last week it was (Darius) Slay. This week it was me. Next week it could be somebody else."

It takes discipline to remain ready with so few snaps.

"It's tough," Bush said. "You don't have a feel for the game. You have to be mentally strong and be prepared when your name is called. You've got to stay in tune. It's being professional."

--Mike O'Hara contributed to this report

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