Maybe Matthew Stafford wore gloves so as not to leave any fingerprints as he committed crimes against football humanity.
If so, that idea backfired—as did the entire Detroit Lions offense—as Stafford and his offensive teammates (you can pronounce “offensive” with the emphasis on the second syllable if you’d like) laid an ostrich egg on the Soldier Field turf on Sunday.
This was an homage to Lions teams of the past. And when I say past, I mean the first eight years of the 21st century.
Watching the Lions’ 37-13 dismantling at the hands of the Chicago Bears was like watching a twisted compilation reel of the Marty Mornhinweg and Rod Marinelli years.
All of your old “favorites” were back: pick-sixes; fumbles; bad special teams coverage/strategy; inopportune personal fouls.
They all came roaring back—no pun intended—in one game, and after a bye week, no less, when teams are supposed to be fresh and re-focused.
Stafford was a mystery, yet again.
The Lions’ franchise QB was a ghoulish mix of Joey Harrington and Ty Detmer. He was far from the confident young gun that led the Lions to a 5-0 start. In the current 1-3 slide, Stafford has too often looked confused, beaten and devoid of confidence.
The 45-10 pummeling of the Denver Broncos propelled the Lions to 6-2 going into their week off, and they had set themselves up nicely for a second half playoff run. Stafford looked like he had solved whatever had troubled him in consecutive losses to the 49ers and the Falcons.
But the bye week wasn’t refreshing at all. Instead, it set football back three years in Detroit.
The defense played OK. Ndamukong Suh and Company only surrendered 16 of the 37 points, and no back breaking big plays, either.
The Lions still would have lost, though, even without all those returns for TDs, because the offense with Stafford at the helm was a frightful blend of slapstick and masochism.
Please, sir, may I have another turnover?
You almost hope that something is wrong with Stafford physically, because the alternative is too disturbing to consider.
It’s only one game, but is it?
Is it a one-game clunker, or is it part and parcel of a four-game rut?
The Lions beat who they should have in the past four games, and lost to three teams who are in the upper echelon of a suspect conference.
That, also, smacks of Lions teams of the past—even in the Wayne Fontes years when the Lions would fatten their record against the NFL’s dregs then play brutal games against “real” teams.
A bottom feeder comes to town next week—the Carolina Panthers. The Lions should handle the Panthers, with their rookie QB, at Ford Field.
And unless they lose to the Panthers, I suggest that you look at it this way.
Did you truly have the Lions winning yesterday, in Chicago? With the Bears thirsting for revenge for what happened on Monday Night Football? And with the Bears desperate to stay in the playoff race?
So if the Lions win Sunday against Carolina and go into the Thanksgiving tilt with Green Bay at 7-3, that’s OK with me. It will just be the Lions following suit—you know, when you play that schedule game of “WIN” and “LOSE” before the season as you tick down the list of opponents and where the game is being played.
There’s no question that the way the Lions lost to the Bears far overshadows that they lost.
As Sparky Anderson said about a particularly bad Tigers loss back in the day, “There’s not enough perfume in the world to make that one smell good.”
But it was just one loss—and the first egg they’ve laid, and we’re in mid-November.
That in of itself is an improvement. Usually we’ve had four or five of these abominations by now.
But someone has to get Matthew Stafford right. And fast. There’s no Dave Krieg 1994 or Eric Hipple 1981 standing by. The only way backup Shaun Hill starts is if Stafford is hurt—there’s no QB controversy here.
Stafford isn’t right. His sluggishness extends back to the 49ers game on October 16.
The Lions have to fix him, or none of this playoff talk will mean a Hill of beans.