Texans vs Lions: How Can Matthew Stafford Avoid Huge Thanksgiving Letdown?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst INovember 21, 2012

Texans vs Lions: How Can Matthew Stafford Avoid Huge Thanksgiving Letdown?

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    Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely thankful for a lot of things, but playing on Thanksgiving is probably not one of them. 

    In two career games on the holiday, Stafford has thrown just two touchdowns against seven interceptions. The Lions lost both contests by a combined score of 61-27. 

    Things don't get any easier for either Stafford or the Lions in 2012. Headed to Detroit for Thursday's annual kickoff game are the Houston Texans, one of two teams in the NFL this season with a 9-1 record. 

    What can Stafford do to turn around his Thanksgiving woes? In the following slides, we present three different ways the Lions quarterback can avoid another holiday letdown Thursday against the Texans.

Better Handle Pressure

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    According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers blitzed Stafford 11 times last Sunday. His passer rating was just 25.0 over those snaps, somewhat of a microcosm of Stafford's season.

    Facing pressure, Stafford has too often panicked in the pocket and then had his throwing mechanics escape him. The result has been inaccuracy and turnovers during the moments when you need a quarterback to be at his very best. 

    On Sunday, Stafford missed on what should have been two long touchdowns to Calvin Johnson. Several other attempts should have been completed but sailed high or wide. And his interception that was returned for a touchdown came off another poorly-located throw that bounced off his receiver's hands.

    Facing a pressure-oreitated defense like the Texans', Stafford needs to find some calm in the pocket, and his mechanics must have some semblance of consistency. He has simply left too many big plays on the field because the accuracy hasn't been there this season. 

Must, Must, Must Avoid Turnovers

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    The Lions are underdogs, and the easiest avenue for any team in that situation to win—especially at home—is to create turnovers. But just as easy, the underdog can kill its own hopes with giveaways and stupid plays from the quarterback.

    Stafford had three turnovers Sunday against the Packers, including a pick-six that changed the entire complexity of the game. A fumble and second interception were also drive-killing plays.

    Overall, Stafford has 10 picks and one lost fumble this season. Adding more than one or two to that total against the Texans will likely mean the Lions drop another game at home on Thanksgiving.

Trust Your Playmakers

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    Everyone saw what Chad Henne and the Jaguars' much-maligned receivers did to the Houston secondary on Sunday. Whether that was a result of intelligent play calls from the Jaguars or lackadaisical effort from the Texans defense is debatable. 

    But considering first-round pick Justin Blackmon tallied over 200 yards and Cecil Shorts also scored a long touchdown, Stafford must also rely on his big-play threats this Thursday.

    Titus Young won't play, but Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Ryan Broyles give Stafford options that are much better than what Henne had Sunday. Look for the Lions to score a lot of points if Stafford can get it going through the air.