Matthew Stafford continues to feel the heat from detractors who believe he's an overpaid slingshot artist who comes up tiny in big moments.
Thursday's Thanksgiving turnover-feast against the Chicago Bears won't help the Detroit Lions' quarterback. With the game tied at 16-16, Stafford threw a back-breaking pick-six on a flat route to tight end Michael Roberts that Bears safety Eddie Jackson read the entire way. Stafford then drove the Lions into position to try and tie the game, only to toss another interception after a miscommunication with Roberts that sealed the 23-16 loss.
The mistakes, along with being outplayed by journeyman clipboard holder Chase Daniel, have the pitchforks out for Stafford.
The QB, however, has backers within the locker room.
"I don't like to point fingers and I don't think that it's his fault," LeGarrette Blount said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "He's a great quarterback. He's really good at what he does, he's really great at his craft. But there's no quarterback that's going to go into a full season and not make any mistakes. So I think he's human. He makes mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes and a lot of mistakes give you an L."
With top running back Kerryon Johnson and receiver Marvin Jones out, the Lions employed an ultra-conservative game plan against the Bears bulldozing defense. The strong-armed Stafford was relegated to an Alex Smith impersonator. According to Next Gen Stats, Stafford averaged 4.2 air yards per attempt, his lowest since Week 5 of 2016 (4.1). Watching Stafford throw 2-yard routes on 3rd-and-4 left fans tossing turkey legs at the television.
Whether the recent dink-and-dunk strategy is a product of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's system, Stafford's in-game decision-making, or a confluence of factors remains a question for which there has been no straight answer.
First-year coach Matt Patricia deflected when asked Thursday if the team expects more out of its quarterback.
"I think we need more out of everybody, to be honest with you," Patricia said. "There were a lot of plays in there where all of us have to do more, whether it's preparation or coaching or playing, whatever it is. There are a lot of plays that we can all point to."
The Lions did Stafford no favors in tradingGolden Tate. The quarterback now plays with a bevy of mostly No. 3 and 4 receivers behind Kenny Golladay and Jones. The Lions have one of the worst receiver units in gaining separation, which leads to the signal-caller holding the ball too long. Up-and-down offensive line play has killed Detroit this season. Given how much the Lions have invested in the unit over the years, the inconsistencies have been demoralizing.
Even with all the issues, Stafford hasn't displayed the consistent ability to make a bad situation better.
Stafford is the best quarterback Detroit has had since the 1950s, but hasn't been the rising tide that lifts all boats. When you're the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, fans expect more than the carcass they received on Thanksgiving.