Column: Matthew Stafford hurting, and so are the Lions
MINNEAPOLIS — Matthew Stafford slumped at his locker, a thousand-yard stare into the lockers 6 feet from him, while a trainer clipped away carefully at the blood-soaked tape on his feet.
The Detroit Lions quarterback had just finished his regular postgame news conference. He was in pain. But he tried to put a strong face on a bad day. To conceal just how badly he was hurting.
His only words on pain were, "Uh, yeah. Yep." He referred all other injury questions to his coaches.
But when it was all over, he walked gingerly to his remote corner of the locker room. He took off his long-sleeve shirt. And the wounds became impossible to miss.There was a blood-soaked bandage on his left forearm, near the elbow. He began picking at a bandage around his left wrist. His throwing arm looked beat up too. It's no wonder he put on long sleeves for that press conference.
The big toe on his left foot was blue.
Two toes on his right foot were taped.
Players began filing out of the locker room, one after another, leaving behind bottles and trash and banana peels. But Stafford just kept sitting there in the corner, breathing just right, trying to soothe his battered ribs.
He had X-rays for those ribs. There's no word on the results.
But it's clear that no matter how much Stafford tries to put a tough public face on everything, his physical state reflects that of the team he quarterbacks.
They are hurting.
The Lions really thought they had something special. But two weeks into the season, they're 0-2 after a 26-16 loss Sunday against the Vikings.
Now they're scrambling for answers on both sides of the ball, with prime-time matchups looming against Denver and Seattle the next two weeks.
"We have to figure it out, and we have to figure it out in a hurry," receiver Golden Tate said. "We have time, but not much time."
The Lions' dysfunction isn't contained to one unit, or even side of the ball.
They really thought their defense would be just as good as last year's. Through two games, they're allowing 416.5 yards per game, which would have ranked dead last in 2014.
They've allowed 59 points. They didn't allow that many until Week 4 of last season.
They knew Minnesota wanted to pump Adrian Peterson down their throats. That's exactly what happened — and the Lions still couldn't stop him, to the tune of 192 yards of total offense.
That's bad enough. But the offense has been bad, too.
The Lions didn't score their first touchdown until 1:58 remained in the first half. Then they went fumble-punt-fumble-punt-interception on their next five possessions, essentially putting the game away.
After all that talk about how so much better Detroit would be offensively, it is averaging 22.0 points per game this year — nearly identical to the 20.1 points per game they scored last year. And they're actually averaging fewer points per game (18.5 points) when accounting for last week's pick-six.
What happened to the offense we were promised throughout the offseason? The more comfortable offense? With all these big-time weapons like Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and Eric Ebron and a more comfortable Stafford?
"We have too much talent not to score points and win games," Tate said. "Too much."
Tate wasn't the problem against Minnesota. With six catches for 80 yards, he was actually a bright spot. But the Lions' tailbacks managed just 16 yards rushing. They had fewer rushing yards than Stafford combined.
That meant Stafford had to do a lot more passing, which in turn meant he was in Minnesota's crosshairs a lot more than he should have been. He was hit eight times, while Teddy Bridgewater was hit just once. (And he shoveled the ball to Peterson for a 49-yard gain on that play.)
Stafford was hit another two times along the sideline, the last of which drew a personal foul against Anthony Barr.
"He was on the ground a lot," Tate said. "Stafford is a very, very tough guy, and I'll never doubt that. Ever. But you got to keep your quarterback up. Your quarterback can't keep taking hits like that. It's tough to come back from those, and we have to find ways to protect him."
Stafford's hurting heading into next week's home opener against Denver on Sunday Night Football. At 0-2, so are the Lions.
Nothing's working. Everything's a mess.
And with only 24 of the past 205 teams to open with back-to-back losses qualifying for the playoffs, Detroit already is facing some long odds of making the postseason.
Those odds will become insurmountable if they can't find some answers. Fast.http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... cart_river