- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the Lions' quarterback play.
Rewind: Life without Calvin Johnson is not easy. The Detroit Lions don't often have to play without their top offensive player. When they did against Green Bay, it hurt everyone, including Matthew Stafford. Stafford's security blanket watched from the sidelines, and the replacements don't have the same pull Johnson does. Stafford still completed 62.5 percent of his passes Sunday, but his total QBR was a season-low 29.4 -- the lowest since the Lions faced Green Bay last season.
Fast-forward: Cleveland is allowing quarterbacks to complete just 57.9 percent of their passes -- a rate lower than that of any defense Stafford has seen this season. The Browns have sacked opposing quarterbacks 18 times, and that could be a concern considering the Detroit offensive line allowed five sacks last week. However, Cleveland has intercepted only four passes in five games. That's good news for a player who has been making good decisions most of the season.
No Megatron, longer hold time: Proving it all works together, without Johnson, Stafford held the ball in the pocket for a season-high average of 2.54 seconds and had a season-high average of 3.27 seconds before throwing a pass. Those types of numbers lead to more pressure and more sacks. Without Johnson to draw double coverages, Stafford had to wait longer to find an open receiver.
Drops return: Twice this season, Stafford has had more than 10 percent of his passes dropped -- in Week 2 against Arizona and then again Sunday against Green Bay. Not much of a coincidence the Lions lost both of those games. Stafford's pass catchers dropped 12.5 percent of his attempts Sunday. For the season, his receivers have dropped 8.2 percent of his passes -- more than that of any quarterback who has played in every game for his team.
Prediction: As long as Johnson returns, so does Stafford's accuracy. A full complement of receivers, tight ends and running backs -- plus Kevin Ogletree gaining a better understanding of the offense with another week in it -- gives him some more options. Watch for him to throw a couple of touchdown passes to Johnson and go for more than 250 yards passing.