Stafford takes heavy blame for Lions’ fall

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Detroit Lions’ fall

from the NFC North driver’s seat to a Week 17 game with no playoff


It’s particularly hard to ignore the performance of quarterback

Matthew Stafford during the team’s late-season slide.

The Lions (7-8) have lost five of their last six games,

including their last three. A win Sunday at Minnesota would leave

Detroit at .500, a far cry from the 6-3 mark it had at the start of


Stafford’s play has followed the team’s fortunes. He has an

NFL-worst 14 turnovers since Week 11: 12 interceptions and two lost

fumbles. His most recent interception was returned for a touchdown

late in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

”There are definitely throws that I wish I had back,” he said.

”I feel like I’ve made some good plays, but the bottom line is

winning and losing games.”

The Lions went 10-6 during the 2011 season, ending an 11-year

postseason drought. They’ve gone 11-20 since.

Last season ended with an eight-game losing streak and 2013 was

particularly difficult for Lions fans who watched division rivals

Chicago and Green Bay lose their starting quarterbacks to injuries

midway through the fall.

Stafford was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for the 2011

season, during which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to

help the Lions secure a wild-card playoff berth. He finished that

season with a 97.2 passer rating.

It’s 83.6 this season, 21st among league quarterbacks.

Stafford has said he’s not affected by recent criticism of his


”I don’t really listen to it or read it, honestly, or hear

about it,” he said. ”It’s actually been pretty stress-free for


”I want to play good. Not for (reporters), but for my teammates

and for the coaches in the locker room.”

Coach Jim Schwartz scoffed at a question of benching Stafford

after a Week 15 loss to Baltimore.

It hasn’t helped that All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson appears to

be playing injured. Neither Johnson, who missed several plays in

Sunday’s loss, nor Schwartz would confirm or deny a report that

Johnson has been playing with a torn knee ligament since a Nov. 10

win at Chicago.

Johnson, who has 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns,

did not practice Wednesday.

NOTES: The Lions placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured

reserve Wednesday, ending his season. The five-year veteran injured

an ankle late in the loss to Baltimore and has not practice or

played since. He finished the season with 41 receptions for 416

yards and two touchdowns. . Guard LaAdrian Waddle still was wearing

a walking brace on his left foot Wednesday. He left late in

Sunday’s game and did not return. . Detroit is 7-23 at Mall of

America Field, which hosts its final game this weekend. The record

is the worst among NFC North teams, none of which has a winning

record there.

AP NFL website: