DETROIT — Matthew Stafford had the ball, the game tied with a little more than six minutes left and in position to do what he’s done so often throughout his career: take the Detroit Lions on a drive to win.
Then he dropped back. Looked to his left. Threw the ball. And visions of that potential drive disappeared almost immediately. Stafford stared down Michael Roberts. Threw the ball. Chicago cornerback Eddie Jackson didn’t even need to blink.
He broke on the ball, picked it off and trotted down the field for a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown that flipped the game and turned what might have been the Lions’ second straight win into a potentially season-crushing 23-16 loss on Thanksgiving.
It symbolized so much of what the Lions have struggled with this year. The playcall was subpar as it was clear that Jackson knew what was coming. So, too, was the decision-making of Stafford, who has enough experience that he should have been able to adjust in some form or fashion without a massive amount of pressure coming at him.
Instead, he’s now lumped in with this: There are two quarterbacks who have thrown a pick-six this season in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Stafford is one of them. The other is the recently-released Nathan Peterman, who the Lions coincidentally had in for a workout earlier this month.
This goes beyond Stafford, who as usual has good and bad moments throughout the course of a game. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 236 yards — but with no touchdowns and two fourth-quarter interceptions. Case in point: The drive after the pick-six, Stafford moved the Lions down the field to the red zone with a chance to tie before he threw an interception in the end zone to Kyle Fuller that ended the game.
The bigger issue here goes to the offense as a whole and the coaching.
The offense struggled all day. By halftime Stafford had thrown 20 passes, completing 16 of them. Those look like good numbers until you consider that the Lions were dinking and dunking their way so much that it resulted in just 98 total yards. Sure, some of that was by design to neutralize a Chicago pass rush that pummeled Stafford six times less than two weeks ago. And some of it was due to two of the Lions’ better offensive options — Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones — being sidelined with knee injuries.
But still, Stafford is in his 10th year in the NFL. He’s known for a strong arm that can make any throw — good or bad. But the Lions kept him under wraps during the first half and throughout most of the day.
LeGarrette Blount fights his way in for two 4-yard touchdowns vs. the Bears.
LeGarrette Blount, who had 103 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns, became the lead back but was ineffective for the most part until the middle of the third quarter. The Lions wasted a pretty decent day from their defense, holding Chicago to 28 yards rushing and registering four sacks (although Chase Daniel completed 27 of 37 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns). And a lot of that is due to the offensive issues.
Even the last drive — the one that ended with a Stafford interception in the end zone — was somewhat confusing. Detroit played with no urgency despite trailing by seven points. Either the Lions had supreme confidence in an offense that had been inconsistent all day, or they didn’t have any faith in a defense that had played well.
And it led to one thing — a defeat that now all but puts the Lions’ season in a spot where the next loss will effectively end it.