Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford left his team’s game against the Tennessee Titans late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury and did not return. If he misses significant time, it would be catastrophic for the Lions’ season.
Stafford pulled up limping after trying to chase down Alterraun Verner, who had just stripped the ball from tight end Brandon Pettigrew and ended up returning the fumble 72 yards for a touchdown.
Shaun Hill did an admirable job at the end of the game, leading a touchdown drive in under a minute and throwing a Hail Mary to tie the score at the end of regulation. But Stafford is one of the premier passers in the NFL, and Hill is not a comparable player when having to play for an entire game.
In the post-game press conference, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said, “He had a muscle pull, or a leg pull, a hamstring pull. It started bothering him during the game and his mobility during the game, and it got to the point where we had to go with Shaun," via NFL.com.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Stafford will have an MRI on Monday to further evaluate to severity of the injury.
If the muscle pull is damaging enough to keep the signal-caller out for multiple weeks, the Lions should be extremely concerned about their 2012 campaign.
After making the playoffs for the first time since 1999 last season, the team had high hopes for this year. But without Stafford at a critical juncture in the season, the team’s hopes of returning to the postseason would start to look extremely bleak.
Detroit is 1-2 after being upset by the Titans. The next three weeks feature games against the Minnesota Vikings—who are coming off an incredible victory over the San Francisco 49ers—and two tough road matchups with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears.
Without Stafford, the contest against Minnesota may be the only winnable game.
Later in the schedule, Detroit has two division battles with the Green Bay Packers as well as games against the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons. Even with Stafford in the lineup, the Lions still would be underdogs against these opponents.
After dropping two of its first three games, Detroit has little room for error moving forward. If Stafford misses significant time, the likelihood of the Lions losing more winnable games will vastly increase, and the team’s ability to reach the postseason will be in serious jeopardy.