ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions’ start to the 2012 season doesn’t quite stack up to the torrid pace they had getting out of the gate in 2011.
The Lions won their first two games a year ago and didn’t suffer their first lost until week six -- causing some concern to surround a sluggish start.
At this time last year, the Lions were 2-0 with a plus-52 point differential. Now, the Lions are 1-1 with a minus-four point differential.
Those who are throwing stones tend to be aiming at the offense, starting with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“I understand that,” said Stafford. “People are going to think I’m great if I throw five touchdowns and the worst if I throw five picks. That’s understandable. I feel terrible if I throw five picks and I feel pretty good if I threw five touchdowns.”
Stafford’s expectations sky-rocketed after his 2012 season and now he is beginning to come under scrutiny after already throwing four interceptions. The attribute most commonly attacked is his accuracy.
“There were some throws that I missed in that first game and even in the second game, too,” said Stafford. “Every week there are balls that you wish you could have back. If I’m completing 60-whatever percent of my passes, like I am now, I’m pretty happy with that.”
Stafford is completing 63.8 percent of his passes, which is a hair higher than the 63.5 percent he completed a year ago.
Still, there is no doubt that Stafford missed some opportunities over the first few weeks of the season but the offense’s early struggles cannot only be pinned on him.
“I think as an offense, we can do better together,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “Wide receivers get open faster, offensive linemen getting more time, him making decisions with the ball. It’s not just his fault. Me and Calvin were talking about it, there’s been a lot of interceptions in the NFL in general, surprisingly by a lot of top quarterbacks.
“We’re not concerned and, in my mind, we have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and 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.”
Defensive coordinators are always looking for new approaches to shutdown the league’s high-powered attack. The book on the Lions offense is to test their patience.
Teams are playing a deep Cover-Two against the Lions, taking away the deep routes, daring the Lions to run and forcing them to use shallow routes and crossing patterns.
“That’s something that we got to continue to work on and I got to continue to work on as well, just taking what the defense is giving me and then picking and choosing the times to take shots,” said Stafford. “When we do take them, we have to hit them.”
The Lions made progress in this area against the San Francisco 49ers. Stafford admitted that some of his interceptions against the St. Louis Rams, particularly the first one, were a product of trying to force a play. However, the Lions leveraged the short pass and run game against the 49ers.
“In the first game, I think the first interception I was trying to make a play rather than taking what the defense gave me,” said Stafford. “Last week I was trying to pull that ball down. That one didn’t really bother me too much except for it was unfortunate that it happened. I felt like I played patient last week, only threw a couple deep balls.”
There is a collective sense that the offense is prepared to breakout soon. The work is being put in the film room and on the practice field, the team is hoping it shows this Sunday.
“We play at a fast pace and at a really precise level at practice,” said Burleson. “We’re just trying to translate that to a game. To be honest, that’s any day now and hopefully it’ll be Sunday.”