O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: How did Lions perform without Stafford?

CHICAGOLions-Bears Burning Questions: An early lead for the Lions playing without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford with some decisions that worked that was wiped out by a Bears’ blitz in their 20-13 victory at Soldier Field.

Question: What did the game show about the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford’s value to the team?

Answer: What it showed about Stafford should be no surprise to anyone who has watched more than a few minutes of any game. Stafford is the Lions’ most valuable player, and he’s probably the most valuable player currently on any of Detroit’s four major professional teams.

What he does on offense, with his ability to generate a big play at any time in any situation, is important to the entire team. He extends possessions, scores points, and keeps the defense off the field.

With Jeff Driskel starting in place of Stafford, the Lions did not have that threat against a Bears team with one of the NFL’s worst offenses. And the Bears took advantage of it to break their own four-game losing streak.

View photos from the Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Week 10 game at Soldier Field on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019 in Chicago.

Q. The team: What did the team show with its overall performance?

A. They have some obvious shortcomings – lack of a running game, and a defense that has trouble getting key stops – but they played the game to the end. They just didn’t play it very well at times, on offense and defense.

As a result, they lost for the fifth time in six games, and they’re in last place in the NFC North with a 3-5-1 record.

Q. Stafford’s future: Do you expect him to play again next week, or any time this season?

A. The honest answer is that I don’t know. There was no indication at the end of Friday’s final practice for the week that he wouldn’t play. As GM Bob Quinn said in a brief meeting with the media before Sunday’s game, Stafford was examined by the doctors Sunday morning and not cleared to play.

That made him inactive, ending his streak of 136 consecutive starts.

Q. Jeff Driskel: How would you rate his play?

A. I wouldn’t. I didn’t expect a lot from a backup in a short career who wasn’t even on the roster at the start of the regular season. He played hard. He didn’t give up. And he was in a tough situation going against one of the league’s toughest defenses.

He made a big mistake on the last possession by throwing a check down pass to running back J.D. McKissic. It was the wrong time for that because it ate up too much time.

Q. Bears blitz: They blew the game open with three straight touchdowns for a 20-6 lead. What was the key to their run?

A. Mitchell Trubisky played like Stafford for about six minutes. The Bears scored their first TD with 25 seconds left in the first half, and they got the other two in the first 5:22 of the second half. All three were TD passes by Trubisky.

He didn’t do a lot the rest of the game, but that blitz turned the game around from a 6-0 lead for the Lions to an advantage for the Bears that the Lions could not overcome.

Q. Key play: Was their one in that blitz?

A. Yes there was. On their first TD drive, they went for it on fourth and one at their own 29 and got it on a two-yard run by rookie David Montgomery.

Strictly my opinion: I don’t think Bears head coach Matt Nagy would have gone for it if Stafford had been playing for fear that with a short field to work with, Stafford would lead a TD drive and extend the Lions’ lead to 13-0.

Q. First drive, Lions: What did the Lions show by driving to a field goal with the first possession after the opening kickoff?

A. They showed that they were ready to compete, no matter who was on the field. The big loss, of course, was Stafford being inactive with a back injury. Four defensive players were inactive, too – defensive end Romeo Okwara, safety Tracy Walker, safety Miles Killebrew and defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand.

They played with who they had, and they played well on that first drive with a mix of runs and Driskel's passes. They ran 13 plays and chewed up more than six minutes off the clock.

It was a good start, but just that – a start.

The Lions couldn’t sustain it.

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