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Breaking down Matthew Stafford's 2014 interceptions

What led to Matthew Stafford's 12 interceptions last season? A lot of things.

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

At this time last year, the Detroit Lions were still in the process of building their staff, and many of the questions surrounded whether or not the Lions could find someone to "fix" their young, gunslinging quarterback. The Lions ended up going with former New Orleans Saints quarterback coach Joe Lombardi. The thinking at the time was to bring in a guy who worked with Sean Payton and Drew Brees and nothing but good things would happen, and it did. Sort of.

Quickly after being hired, Lombardi came out and exclaimed how his new quarterback wasn't broken, and I still believe that to be the case. A year into Lombardi's system, Stafford looks to have improved in small details while still refining in others.

By almost every measure of quarterback play, Stafford finished the 2014 season in the middle of the pack amongst NFL starters. He had career lows in both yards (4,257) and completions (363). And despite dropping back to throw only four times fewer than a year ago, he had nearly double the sacks (45) and, according to Pro Football Focus, had the seventh-highest sack percentage (21.2) in the NFL after only having an 11.9 sack percentage in 2013.

The one area where Stafford improved vastly over previous seasons was his penchant for turning the ball over. After throwing 19 interceptions in 2013, Stafford came back in 2014 and threw a career-low 12 interceptions. To put it in perspective, Stafford threw 12 interceptions in the final seven games in 2013 alone.

After watching the 12 interceptions he threw this past regular season, you can lump them into four categories:

  1. Poor decision/throw by Stafford
  2. Miscommunication/drop
  3. Great defensive play
  4. Poor protection

Week 2: Detroit vs. Carolina

Fourth Quarter (12:32), 1st & 10
DET 7 | CAR 13
Poor decision/throw

int 1

This was just a flat-out poor decision on Stafford's part. The Lions try a play-action bomb, but it backfires. Stafford simply has to be smarter than this. Down by less than a touchdown in the fourth quarter and he decides to lob it up to Calvin Johnson, who is clearly double-covered.

Week 3: Green Bay vs. Detroit

First Quarter (3:55), 3rd & 14
GB 0 | DET 7

int 2

This is one of those throws that you have to live with when you have Stafford as your quarterback. It wasn't the most accurate throw, maybe a little high, but still clearly in the reach of Corey Fuller, who let the ball go right through his hands for an easy interception.

Week 3: Green Bay vs. Detroit

Second Quarter (13:36), 3rd & 10
GB 7 | DET 7

Poor decision/throw

int 3

This was another prayer from Stafford toward Johnson, but not as horrible as the one he had in Week 2. This time there was pressure, but Stafford still forces a desperate heave toward Johnson, who is once again blanketed by double coverage. All in all, no worse than a punt given the situation on third-and-10.

Week 5: Buffalo vs. Detroit

Second Quarter (10:33), 2nd & 8
BUF 0 | DET 14
Poor decision/throw

int 4

For whatever reason, Stafford and Reggie Bush could never get on the same page in 2014. This time Bush runs a quick out and Stafford delivers a brutally placed ball. The high-and-behind pass gets tipped up for easy pickings.

Week 7: New Orleans vs. Detroit

First Quarter (0:23), 2nd & 2
NO 0 | DET 0
Poor decision/throw

int 6

Stafford simply fails to diagnose the coverage. On a designed rollout he trusts his arm over his head. Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis makes a terrific play, but it's still on Stafford to not throw that ball.

Week 7: New Orleans vs. Detroit

Fourth Quarter (8:53), 2nd & 7
NO 20 | DET 10

int 5

Brutal. The Lions are driving the field and are in the red zone. Again, Stafford doesn't deliver a perfect ball, but definitely one that needs to be caught. Instead it goes as a bobbled catch and interception.

Week 8: Detroit vs. Atlanta

Second Quarter (1:21), 3rd & 10
DET 0 | ATL 21

int 7

The Lions are driving toward the end of the half just trying to get some points on the board after getting beaten in every phase throughout the first two quarters. This pass is a timing route between Stafford and Fuller. The problem is that Fuller falls down on his inside cut, and when he does Stafford throws it right into the defender. It's tough to know what would have happened had Fuller stayed up, but as it stands you can't blame the quarterback for that one.

Week 10: Miami vs. Detroit

Second Quarter (5:30), 1st & 10
MIA 0 | DET 10
Great defensive play

int 8

Not the correct decision by Stafford (he had an open receiver on the other side of the field), but nine times out of 10 this is a routine pass that either is caught by Calvin Johnson or falls incomplete. Miami cornerback Brent Grimes makes one of the plays of the year and comes away with a brilliant interception.

Week 11: Detroit vs. Arizona

Third Quarter (4:14), 3rd & 13
DET 6 | ARI 14
Poor decision/throw

int 9

Very reminiscent of the Week 2 interception against Carolina. Down on the road by one score and Stafford simply tries to do too much. I give him some leniency given the down and distance, but still not a smart decision.

Week 12: Detroit vs. New England

Fourth Quarter (6:39), 1st & 10
DET 9 | NE 27
Poor protection

int 10

This is the only interception all season that I could solely blame the offensive line for. Cornelius Lucas had to come in for the injured Riley Reiff, and he lets pressure get to Stafford just as Stafford lets the ball go. As a result, the ball floats, is off target and is intercepted.

Week 16: Detroit vs. Chicago

Second Quarter (8:11), 2nd & 10
DET 7 | CHI 0
Poor decision/throw

int 11

Shame. Shame. This was one of those plays Stafford had done such a good job of eliminating for most of the season. The play breaks down, and rather than picking up a few yards with his feet or throwing the ball away, he tries to force something to happen and throws into double coverage in the end zone. Had Stafford just checked the ball down to Bell running across the field, they might have scored.

Week 16: Detroit vs. Chicago

Second Quarter (4:21), 3rd & 11
DET 7 | CHI 0

int 12

Tough to know what happened on this one. I'm not 100 percent sure, but my best bet is that this was just a miscommunication between Golden Tate and Stafford. Tate kind of sits in the zone and Stafford expects him to cut back inside.

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