Stafford working through unexpectedly slow start

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matthew Stafford ranks No. 27 in the NFL in quarterback rating after the first two weeks.

Not exactly what you would expect from the Detroit Lions' franchise QB, even so early in the season, but he's not alone.

One notch below him is none other than New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees.

Stafford has a 73.2 rating, Brees 71.6.

"Me and Calvin (Johnson) were talking about it, there's been a lot of interceptions in the NFL in general, surprisingly by a lot of top quarterbacks," Lions receiver Nate Burleson said.

"We're not concerned. In my mind, we've got one of the best quarterbacks in the league. You're not going to tell me anything different. I know Matt's going to catch a rhythm and catch fire, and I'll be the recipient of that."

That could take place as early as Sunday when the Lions travel to Tennessee to take on the 0-2 Titans, who have been torched for 72 points in losses to New England and San Diego.

Stafford finished last season with a quarterback rating of 97.2, fifth in the league, while passing for 41 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions.

In the past two weeks, a comeback victory over St. Louis and a loss to San Francisco, Stafford has two touchdown passes and four interceptions.

Opposing defenses are basically begging the Lions to run while keeping their safeties deep to try to contain Johnson and the Lions' high-powered passing game.

"I think the biggest thing that teams are doing is testing our patience as an offense," Stafford said. "They're trying to figure out how to slow us down.

"That's something we've got to continue to work on. I have to continue to work on as well. Just taking what the defense is giving up, picking and choosing the times to take shots (downfield). When we do take them, we've just got to hit them. That's the biggest thing. First two games, we had some shots and haven't really hit them yet.

"Hopefully, if those shots arise, we can hit them and then the rest of the game be patient and move the ball methodically."

Although Stafford's completion percentage is actually higher this year (63.8 percent) than it was for all of last season (63.5 percent), there have been some uncommonly bad misfires.

He was nearly flawless during a fourth-quarter rally the first week against St. Louis, but he has been uncharacteristically inconsistent the rest of the time.

"There were some throws I missed in the first game and even in the second game," Stafford said. "Every week there's balls you wish you could have back."

As for the early scrutiny, Stafford said, "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I'm working for the guys in that locker room and the coaches in there, not really for anyone else, to tell you the truth. I don't really let too many outside influences hinder what we've got going on."

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh laughed when asked about a report that he is dating Olympic track star Lolo Jones.

"That's funny, real funny, just like Joe Staley's comments," Suh said.

Suh then walked away and didn't respond to a follow-up question asking to clarify what his relationship with Jones is, but he did have some other comments for Staley earlier.

Staley, an offensive tackle for San Francisco, was critical of the Lions' defensive line, saying they "pride themselves on being cheap after the play."

"I find it very interesting and laughable sometimes," Suh said. "It's not my concern. I don't go against him. The times that I guess I have, I've never had an issue with him. If he has an issue with me, he knows where to find me."

Told that Staley also called the Lions' D-Line "extremely" overrated, Suh added, "People are going to say what they want to say. If you get a win and feel like you can talk, great for you. That doesn't really mean (bleep) to me."

Chris Houston, the Lions' top cornerback, vowed to be back in the lineup Sunday after missing the first two games because of an ankle injury.

"I definitely will be out there this week," Houston said. "It was close on Sunday (against the 49ers). I still had little hitches. I couldn't stop all the way.

"Now I can stop, plant, run full speed. I'm there. I'm definitely anxious. "

... Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a concussion in the opening game. His status for Sunday won't be determined until later in the week.

… Cornerback Drayton Florence was placed on an injured list Wednesday to make room on the roster for running back Mikel Leshoure, who was suspended for the first two games.

Florence had surgery for a broken forearm sustained in Sunday's game. Coach Jim Schwartz said Florence played part of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter without telling the coaches or trainers about the injury.

"I've got a lot of respect for that guy," Schwartz said. "He went and soldiered through."

Florence will be eligible to return to practice in six weeks and to game action in eight weeks.