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Thursday, December 20, 2012
Blogger Blitz: Matthew Stafford's step back

By Kevin Seifert

No matter what happens over the final two games of the season, the Detroit Lions are headed to their 11th losing season in the past 12 years. So rather than preview Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons, we've commenced a review of their season -- starting with this week's post on the impact of the "Wide 9" defensive scheme on the Lions' rushing defense.

The Blogger Blitz video looks at quarterback Matthew Stafford's 14-game performance, which doesn't measure up to his breakout 2011 season by most objective measures. I hit the main points in the video, but I want to add a layer of context that probably translates better in text.

The chart, courtesy ESPN Stats & Information, shows that Stafford has been at his best this season when the Lions are either ahead by two scores or trailing by two scores. By default, that means he has been less effective when games are close. Because the Lions have rarely held large leads this season, that differential underscores two divergent aspects about Stafford's season.

The first is his well-chronicled success in bringing the Lions back from fourth-quarter deficits. But we also see a second aspect that helps illustrate why the Lions have found themselves trailing so often in the first place. Stafford's struggles early in games -- when deficits are typically below 10 points -- are a significant part of that trend.

We should be careful about putting all the blame on Stafford. As I noted in the video, many NFL teams would gladly take the season he has had from their starter. The Lions' depleted personnel at receiver and an inert running game have also factored in. But as the quarterback, Stafford will get more blame than any other player for the way the Lions' offense has produced this season.