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Lions stock report: Stafford’s comeback season isn’t happening right now

Multiple mistakes for the franchise’s lead man paint a bleak picture of early season woes.

In Lions Stock Report we attempt to provide a bellwether for individual performance on the Detroit Lions, but to make that happen effectively it requires a variance in trending activity. Right now, there aren’t a lot of bright stocks. Fans are panic-selling. Complete market collapse. Bears, literal bears are eating the day traders. Awful, wretched adrenochrome-extracting things that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson warned us about.

Stock down: Matthew Stafford

(via rbsdm.com/stats/)

Perhaps this is a fault of hope, pernicious as it is.

There were great expectations that sprang from Stafford’s aborted 2019 season, glimpses of greatness that suggested that he was getting comfortable with Darrell Bevell’s system, that perhaps maybe, at age 32, he could channel his apotheosis and provide the winning heart the Lions so desperately needed from the franchise himself.

Or perhaps it was the grim reality of the situation. We know by now what Stafford is. We also know what Stafford isn’t. But Stafford needed to be great out of the gate. There simply was no other option. The defense project turned out to be repeating on a cycle of abortive failure, the ground game looked as effective as a one-wheeled tricycle. It wasn’t just time for Stafford to prove he was everything, but the very moment beseeched this.

It is understood that he might be battling nagging remnants of his injury, and Kenny Golladay, a prime weapon, is currently not present on Sunday.

It doesn’t matter. The Lions need him now.

Efficiency is down in Stafford’s play. Stafford dropped from an Expected Points Added Per Play of 0.225 in 2019 to 0.018 so far this season. In the NFL’s NextGen Completion Percentage over Expectation, Stafford clocks in at -6.32, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins and Carson Wentz.

Mistakes compounded issues for Stafford in this game. He took uncharacteristic sacks, misplaced the ball a handful of times and shied away from any signature big plays that could have put this team back on track. Despite my screeching last week about wasted downs on abortive running attempts, the Lions are posting a 56.7 percent early-down pass rate this season, placing them in the top 10. Stafford has had chances to make plays. He just didn’t make them in this game.

Let’s talk about that interception he threw in the third quarter.

There’s no good way to parse this. Such a blunder, at that point in the game, was inexcusable. The Lions had just been punched in the mouth twice, before and after the half, but found the game still within reach. Backed onto their own goal line, this was the time for heroics, not panicked miscalculations.

On the play itself, Chandon Sullivan (third-year cornerback, Georgia State, undrafted in 2018) immediately read Stafford, jumped the route, snatched what was intended for Danny Amendola and annihilated the play. This is the sort of error that you simply cannot tolerate from a 12-year veteran and a proven starter.

Stafford’s miracle isn’t happening at the moment. It’s not clear that Stafford will even come close to what he was in 2019, barring a radical change in either coaching philosophy or his own performance. If one wants to continue to hold out hope for the cavalry, for Golladay and the shoring up of the right side of the offensive line, this is acceptable. However, time is not on Detroit’s side.

Complain all you want about narratives, provincial biases, the overwhelming onus placed on quarterbacks to win games by sheer will and fortitude in the NFL. It’s illogical, it’s maddening, it’s pernicious and slithering. All true. All given.

But the Lions need Stafford to win ballgames for them right now. Take it all down to basics and that’s what remains—a guttural statement from a football-addled brain, out of ideas and more elaborate solutions.

Stock down: Oday Aboushi

Aboushi’s struggles—including two devastating penalties in this game—do not bode well for this team’s supposed depth. The only reason Aboushi was starting was the sudden injury to Joe Dahl, but he’s on the mend for the next two weeks at a minimum. Aboushi better get it together, because the players on both sides of him are continuing to play well, and he’s squandering it.

Stock up: D’Andre Swift

After a brutal drop last week against the Chicago Bears, Swift was targeted five times by Stafford and caught all five passes, for a total of 60 yards. He showed no sign he was letting the lost heroics loom over him. Good.

The ground game for Swift is nothing to speak about, but it’s clear that the Lions are seeking to use Swift as a pass-catching running back, much in the same fashion as Theo Riddick of yesteryear. That bodes well, for such a role is not only trendy in the NFL, but always useful in the toolkit for Stafford.

Stock down: Leads

The Lions technically blew another double-digit point advantage, but this scenario was gone so fast that it felt no more real than a Fabergé egg at a Bed Bath & Beyond.

Green Bay showed Detroit exactly what you’re supposed to do with a lead. You never take your foot off the gas. Given the choice to burn clock or put six more points on the board, you damn well put six more points up there, because that’s six more points the foe has to score in turn. Enough of this clever-by-half nonsense.

Stock down: Matt Patricia

Time has run out. Patience has run out. Understanding is running thin. There’s nowhere to hide at this point. Take responsibility all you want, deflect where you so wish. This was the year everyone wanted to see Patricia’s homework. Summer break ended and there’s still 20 pages of math problems that were left blank. What the hell?

Forget the conventional numbers about an 0-2 record and the playoffs that doesn’t mean much because of a third wild card. Forget injuries, forget fan anger, forget the maybe-but-probably-not-really ultimatum handed down by Sheila Ford Hamp in December.

Forget all that.

You have to worry, right here, right now, about Kyler Murray.

Good luck.

Stock down: Tracy Walker

It is understood that Will Harris was having a very bad day—two personal fouls and a missed tackle on Aaron Jones’ 75-yard touchdown—and yet whenever Walker returned to take over for Harris on the field, he did not inspire the confidence expected for this season.

Points awarded to Walker for being one of the few Lions defensive players to score a QB hit on Rodgers; negative points for repeatedly showing his back to Packers receivers he was supposed to be covering.

Stock up: Jack Fox

He’s pretty good I guess.