ALLEN PARK -
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off his worst performance of the 2011 season.
The nightmarish outing occurred against the Chicago Bears, when Stafford completed 52 percent of his 63 passes and threw four interceptions, compiling a 46.3 passer rating -- his worst since the final game of his rookie season.
Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
Stafford is the center piece of the Lions offense, a unit that is built on explosive plays that are generally sparked by its quarterback’s big arm.
When Stafford struggles, the offense struggles.
When the offense struggles, the likelihood of a loss increases.
And when the team loses, fans and the media become restless, with criticism directed at the young quarterback. Stafford's troubles in Chicago were compounded by the concerns regarding his gloves, and whether his broken finger was a catalyst to a poor performance.
As some fans convey concern, one might wonder what the feeling is amongst those calling the shots on the Lions sidelines.
“The least of our worries is our quarterback,” said head coach Jim Schwartz after Wednesday's practice. “I mean, we know the reason those interceptions got thrown and it’s not going to affect the way we go about our business or the way he goes about his business.”
The practice performance by his starting QB seemed to affirm Schwartz’s sentiments.
Stafford was a full participant in practice and not only demonstrated accuracy in positional drills but showed poise. The third-year quarterback appeared composed and collected as he displayed the same work ethic, leadership and enthusiasm that the team has come to expect from their leader.
Stafford’s ability to remain confident in himself inspires the confidence of his offensive teammates.
“He doesn’t waver,” said receiver Nate Burleson. “When you have a quarterback that isn’t worried, always has a smile on his face, is ready to work and letting the ball release out of his hand like a cannon, we’re not worried at all. You look at the captain of the boat and he’s ready to sail and we’re going to go to sea with him.”
There is no doubt the offensive players are united in support of their quarterback, however, in the NFL it isn’t unheard of for defensive players to view their offensive counterparts with contempt when they feel as if they are failing to contribute.
In the Lions three losses this season, the defense has given the team a chance to win, averaging only 20.7 points against. In those same contests, the offense has mustered an average of only 16 points per game. Furthermore, the offense has surrendered 16 points themselves by allowing two interceptions for touchdowns and a safety.
So, are the defensive players still supportive of their quarterback?
“Oh, we are going to be behind him regardless,” said defensive tackle Corey Williams. “Everybody has a bad games, if you play in this league long enough you’re going to have a bad game, we know what type of guy Stafford is and we know he’s going to come out and give us everything he’s got, we are going to ride behind him.”
Cornerback Chris Houston agrees with his defensive teammate and believes, like some other successful quarterbacks, Stafford will put the adversity behind him.
“You see Tony Romo go through it, Brett Favre went through it – he’s a great quarterback – and Mike Vick went through it, it’s how you bounce back,” said Houston. “It’s how you deal with adversity and I know Matt, he’s a fighter, he’s one of the leaders on this team. He knows he can’t be down because we’ll see that, so he gives us confidence to go out there and play and we believe in him.”
The Lions coaching staff and personnel have not lost faith in their young quarterback.
And more importantly, by all accounts, neither has he.
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