Detroit Lions: Is Matthew Stafford to Blame for the Slow Start?
The Detroit Lions are surprising the league again this year, though not in a positive way.
After ending the 2011 season with a 10-6 record and making the playoffs, the Lions are teetering on the edge of mediocrity once again with this season’s 1-3 record.
There is always someone to put the blame on in losing situations, and quarterback Matthew Stafford may be it this season.
But like most things, the blame in not exclusive to one person. There are various factors that contribute to the harsh reality of a 1-3 record.
Throwing Deeper Passes
Matthew Stafford is producing numbers similar to his impressive 2011 season. What is different is the manner in which he produces these statistics.
In the first four games that Stafford has played, he has amassed 1,182 yards with a 65.9 completion percentage, putting him on pace to match last year’s 5,000-yard season.
Unfortunately, he has averaged only 6.8 yards per completion, which is significantly lower than last season’s average of 7.60.
This is likely the result of opposing defenses double-covering wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Lions need another receiver to step up in order to take the pressure off Johnson and Stafford.
Finding the End Zone
One would assume that all of Stafford’s short completions would result in more effective red-zone production, but unfortunately for Matthew Stafford, it has not.
Notably, the season opener against the St. Louis Rams set the tone for the next few games. The Lions were inside the 20-yard line and Jo-Lonn Dunbar picked off Stafford for a long gain. Rams rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins also got an interception, but this one was on a 1st-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
Nothing is noticeably different about Stafford in terms of his mechanics, but it may just be that the he lacks that special quality that separated him from the rest of the quarterbacks in 2011.
Of course, minimizing his mistakes can propel Stafford back to elite quarterback status and can result in more wins as well.
Inconsistent (and Poor) Running Game
The Lions have had their share of struggles in every aspect of the game, but there is no bigger problem than the running game.
Last year's starter, Jahvid Best, has been placed on the PUP list after suffering yet another concussion in the 2011 season. The injury has left the Lions two viable backups.
Kevin Smith started the first two games of the regular season but proved to be an ineffective back, rushing for a total of 115 yards and a touchdown.
Smith later became a third-down back, and Mikel Leshoure took over the starting role after serving his two-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. In the past two games, he has rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, according to ESPN.com.
While the numbers are similar to Smith’s, Leshoure did have a 100-yard rushing performance against the Tennessee Titans in a 41-44 overtime loss.
The inconsistency at the position alone can cause any team to panic. The losses and lack of production, however, make the situation worse.