Matthew Stafford's Legendary Tale Gets Rewritten by Packers

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst INovember 27, 2009

DETROIT , MI - NOVEMBER 26:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on while playing the Green Bay Packers on November 26, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Cinderella's coach really did turn back into a pumpkin. Hansel and Gretel got caught after all. None of the pigs got around to building a joint out of brick.

John Elway's legend is safe once again. Whoever sculpts those busts for Canton needn't rush out to procure a head shot of Matthew Stafford at his earliest convenience.

Cloud Nine just touched down. The bandwagon came to a screeching halt—after one game.

If rookie quarterbacks were stock on the New York Stock Exchange, their chart would look like an EKG readout.

On Sunday, Stafford won a game for the Lions—damaged wing and all. Real storybook stuff. Someone dared to disturb Bobby Layne's ghost over it.

Four days later, the reset button got hit, taking his progression back to the hot July days of training camp.

On Sunday, the kid threw five touchdown passes. It usually takes a Lions QB half a season to do that. On Thursday, he had a fetish of throwing to the wrong guys. Four interceptions, and it could have been more. Each one of them was a killer.

The rookie quarterback gives, and he takeths away. Within four days, sometimes.

Stafford tried to pen another chapter in the tiny legend he's trying to author as a first-year signal caller in the NFL.

His tender left shoulder was so bad after Sunday's game that the idea of him playing on Thanksgiving Day seemed folly.

The days of the short week passed, and after each one, the diagnosis was the same: doubtful. Highly.

Backup Daunte Culpepper arrived at Ford Field Thursday morning thinking he was the starter. He had taken all the reps with the first team. Stafford's left wing was still limp.

But a funny thing happened, though the humor was lost on Culpepper.

Stafford threw some footballs Thursday during warmups, and suddenly things weren't so bad. The doctors, abiding by the script, agreed that Stafford playing wouldn't cause any further damage. It was deemed to be a "pain management issue."

So Stafford is announced as the starter not long before game time, and Culpepper was probably the only person in the stadium who was disappointed with that determination.

But someone forgot to send the script over to the Green Bay Packers for their approval.

After an early hiccup—a fumbled opening kickoff that led to a Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson TD toss—the Packers regained control and jammed Stafford's next chapter into the paper shredder.

If you played a drinking game where you had to take a shot of booze whenever Troy Aikman said something like, "That's part of the development of a rookie quarterback," you'd be reading this with a hangover. But Troy's right, and he ought to know. Aikman suffered through a 1-15 season with the 1989 Cowboys, in which he went 0-11 as a starter.

I tried my hand at playing soothsayer on Monday's episode of "The Knee Jerks," the Blog Talk Radio gabfest I co-host with Big Al Beaton .

Stafford could very well, I said, go back to being the goat as soon as on Thanksgiving Day, because that's what happens with these young whippersnappers. They waddle, then they fall down sometimes.

I'm not right all that often, but I picked a helluva time to be spot on.

The loss on Thursday wasn't all on the kid, though.

Once again, the Lions' pass rushers treated the opposing quarterback as if he'd had a garlic sandwich before the game, topped with limburger.

I think I saw Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, prior to rocketing a 68-yard bomb to Donald Driver in the first quarter, have a shave and brush his teeth. Or maybe the rules were that the Lions' pass rushers had to count to 20-Mississippi, and they got stuck on 11 or 12.

Once again, the Lions were the antidote to what ailed the other team. The Packers have had trouble all season protecting Rodgers, who came into the game being sacked once for every 8.9 pass attempts. That rate was one for every 39 passing attempts on Thursday.

It wasn't just that the Lions didn't sack Rodgers; they didn't even get within shouting distance of him. They made him more comfortable in the pocket than a set of car keys.

The Lions' secondary needs all the help it can get, and it's not getting it from the front four. The pass coverage is softer than Charmin, and it's being made to look even worse because of the complete lack of pressure from the pass rushers.

So it's not all on Stafford, but there will still be afternoons where he's no help, as on Thursday, and at Seattle, and against the Rams.

All part of the development of a rookie quarterback, right?

Ha! Now you have to take a shot.


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