Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

After the Detroit Lions' 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. The Lions are terming quarterback Matthew Stafford day-to-day because of an injured right ankle suffered on his final play of Sunday's game. Coach Jim Schwartz said that Stafford's right knee is "not an issue." Schwartz wouldn't reveal what an MRI showed but implied that the injury is not major. "If he had a broken bone or something like that," Schwartz told reporters, "he’d be more than day-to-day." Stafford has made seven consecutive starts, the longest streak of his young career, and unless Schwartz is dramatically underplaying the injury, you would like to think he'll find a way onto the field Sunday against the Denver Broncos. The bigger question will be whether Stafford can find his way out of a mini-slump that has produced his worst two starts of the season.

  2. Schwartz used the same classification on Stafford as he did for running back Jahvid Best, who still needs to pass a series of post-concussion tests before he returns to the field. I kind of liked what the Lions did without Best on Sunday, letting loose Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams on a number of quick-hitting interior runs to get them rumbling downfield. They combined for 94 yards, more than Best produced in five of his six starts. If you think that defenses have adjusted to what the Lions did earlier this season with Stafford, then it's imperative the Lions find a way to break their tendencies with the run game.

  3. The Lions rank fourth in the NFL with 57 accepted penalties, or more than eight per game. Some of them have been harmless and others have been critical mistakes. And too many have been like the first-down holding call against guard Rob Sims, putting the Lions in a first-and-20 situation. Whether you have an explosive offense or not, it's tough to dig out of many holes like that.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I'm not sure what to make of rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was credited with the first (and only) tackle of his three-game NFL career Sunday. Fairley missed almost all of training camp, the entire preseason and the first four games of the regular season. So is he still in preseason mode? Is his surgically-repaired foot still not 100 percent? Is he adjusting to the level of play in the NFL? The bottom line is that we haven't seen a ton of impact yet from the No. 13 overall pick of the draft.