The Detroit Lions lost on Thanksgiving once again, thanks to a pair of Matthew Stafford interceptions and an unimaginative offense.
Matthew Stafford was starting his 136th NFL game on Thanksgiving afternoon. Chase Daniel was starting his third.
Yet it was Daniel, an undrafted free agent in 2009, who outplayed that year’s No. 1 overall pick. The diminutive Daniel completed 27-of-37 attempts for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Bears to a 23-16 win over the Lions at Ford Field.
The loss drops Detroit to 4-7, and effectively ends another season in Motown. This feeling is as familiar on Thanksgiving as pecan pie and cranberry sauce for Lions fans, who haven’t seen a playoff win since 1991.
While there’s no arguing that Stafford is an elite talent, his results are both underwhelming and uninspiring. Detroit should be a contender with Stafford’s right arm on the roster, and yet it’s typically lucky to crack .500, only doing so four times over the past decade.
All of this begs the question of whether Stafford is to blame, or whether it’s an organizational failure from the top down. The answer? Both.
The Lions have never put good coaching around Stafford, ranging from Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell to the current man, Matt Patricia. In a league that is hurtling towards point-a-minute offenses, Detroit decided to hire a defensive mind, one who spends much of the week berating media members on their posture and reminding them that he is the smartest man in the room.
Of course, he wouldn’t have to remind them if he could prove such a notion on the field.
Patricia has no excuse for the Lions being a poor watch. Detroit hasn’t sustained a cavalcade of injuries, no more than any other team has. The Lions are in a winnable division, and on Thanksgiving, Patricia was going against a fellow rookie head coach playing on the shortest turnaround in NFL history, all with a backup quarterback. None of it mattered.
Patricia had his proverbial pants pulled down by Nagy’s crew, who consistently flummoxed Patricia and his staff with imaginative and aggressive play calls on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter appeared stuck in the ’90s, utilizing little motion and allowing Chicago to zero in on easily-identifiable route combinations.
All that said, Stafford also shoulders a considerable amount of the blame.
Stafford is in his 10th year, and lost to a journeyman backup. He threw the game-ending pick-six to Eddie Jackson on a telegraphed pass, and then doubled down with an interceptions into the waiting hands of Kyle Fuller on the next drive.
To suggest Stafford has a top-notch supporting cast would be lying. Suggesting a truly great quarterback can’t win with the group around him would also be a lie.
It’s been an oft-debated subject in Detroit. How good is Stafford really? The argument will rage on, but there are a good half-dozen quarterbacks who have the Lions in the playoffs this season (Brees, Rodgers, Mahomes, Brady, Goff, Luck), and another handful (Rivers, Wilson, Roethlisberger, Wentz) who would have them in the running.
The tune is always the same in Motown when it comes to the Lions. And it’s always a sad one.