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Calvin Johnson defends Matthew Stafford's poor play

Matthew Stafford epitomizes the enigmatic Detroit Lions.

Since sweeping the Chicago Bears to take control of the NFC North in Week 10, the fifth-year pro quarterback has thrown 10 interceptions, lost two fumbles and finished just one game with a completion rate higher than 57 percent as the Lions have gone 1-4.

Detroit now sits one game back in the division after Monday night's 18-16 loss to Baltimore.

Stafford's performance against the Ravens was emblematic of Stafford and the Lions' offense over that stretch.

Detroit drove down the field for a touchdown on its first drive; it had another touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Everything in between was a mix of ugly, awful, annoying and frustrating for the Lions' offense. Stafford was all of the above.

The quarterback threw three interceptions, including one on an errant pass that sealed the defeat with 30 seconds remaining.

He reverted to having happy feet in the pocket, often not setting to throw and anticipating a rush when he had time to step into a pass. He continued to miss receivers on high throws, was off target on several short routes and forced throws into coverage.

Lions teammates defended their quarterback after the game, namely wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who contributed to Stafford's rough night with two drops.

"You can't lay all the blame on him," Johnson said. "It's all us, it's everybody. Balls get tips and Stafford had a bunch of crazy stuff like that happen, whether it be receivers falling or a defensive end tips the ball or something like that. Matt's playing good. None of this was on Matt. It's on us as a team."

The truth about Stafford is he has the physical gifts to be a much better quarterback than what he currently displays on Sundays. There are moments each week when he makes throws few NFL quarterbacks can even dream of completing.

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However, his progress has stalled like a Ford Pinto in the snow.

His mechanics and pocket awareness haven't improved, and his decision-making is perplexing. For every dime he's dropped this season, there are four passes that sail high and put his receivers in precarious positions.

Maybe Stafford never will grow into his physical gifts. Maybe he always will be a quarterback with a huge arm who continues to make confounding mistakes -- NFL history books are stuffed with similar stories.

The past five weeks of regression have proven one thing for certain: Stafford's come as far as this coaching staff can take him.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" broke down the Cowboys loss and every other Week 15 game.

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