Lions suffering from dropped passes

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
5:20
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Matthew Stafford throws a ball to a receiver in a game and it gets dropped, his immediate instinct is the same when he throws an interception.

Go back at him again.

“I’m ready to go right back to them,” Stafford said. “I want to give them the ball the next play, just to get them back in the swing of things. There’s nothing more frustrating as an athlete than to mess up and then not have the opportunity to make up for it.

“That’s something I know, as a competitor, when I throw a pick I want to throw it the next play so I can let people know that every ball I throw doesn’t get picked off.”

That said, Stafford’s receivers have been struggling to hang on to the ball. More than one in ten (10.4 percent) of Stafford’s passes over the first two games have been dropped -- a startling amount considering how much the Lions throw the ball.

Not a lot of it is on Stafford, either. He has, for the most part, thrown the ball decisively and accurately to his receivers. They have just had issues catching it.

“He’s putting the balls in the chest plate and in our hands,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “What we got to do as receivers is continue to catch the balls that are thrown to us and the tough ones, too.

“There are a little bit of balls that are going to be caught in traffic and a little bit in man coverage but as far as Matt goes, he’s doing everything he needs to do at the quarterback position.”

Through two games, this has been the most successful season of Stafford's career. He has been completing 65.8 percent of his passes -- his highest completion rate -- and has four touchdowns with one interception. Consider how much higher his numbers might be had his receivers held on to the ball.

The Lions lead the league in total drops with eight. Running back Joique Bell has three of them, tied for second in the league with New England receiver Aaron Dobson, St. Louis receiver Tavon Austin and San Diego tight end Antonio Gates. Only Denver's Eric Decker, with four, has more.

Dobson, Bell and Austin both had all three of their drops in games Sunday.

“Just playing ahead of myself,” Bell said. “Trying to make a catch, trying to make a play before I had the ball completely secured in my hands. Just have to key in, know you can’t make a play without the ball in your hands.”

In all, six different receivers have dropped passes for Detroit. Bell has three and then Reggie Bush, Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Tony Scheffler and Burleson are all credited with one.

Consider this: Stafford’s completion percentage is still seventh in the league with the drops. If all of his drops were caught, he’d be completing 75.9 percent (60-of-79) of his passes -- the top percentage in the league. Even if half were caught, he’d be completing 70.9 percent of his passes, third in the league behind Tony Romo and Matt Ryan.

Yet Stafford isn’t letting his receivers take the blame alone.

“It’s on everybody. It’s on me, too,” Stafford said. “I have to give them more catchable passes. I take credit for some of those. Then guys need to make a few more plays, but at the same time, a lot of guys make great catches for me, too, so you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

“That’s something we’re constantly trying to be the best we possibly can. Catch everything thrown at ya. For me, as a quarterback, trying to put everything on the money if you can.”

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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