Unless you’re a Bears fan, Thursday’s 23-16 Lions loss against Chicago was a boring, depressing way to start Thanksgiving. Both teams’ offenses came out with extremely conservative, mostly ineffective game plans, and while that could be excused with Chicago QB Chase Daniel making the emergency start for Mitch Trubisky, seeing Detroit’s decade-long starter Matthew Stafford reduced to throwing four-yard passes all day to randoms like Bruce Ellington and Michael Roberts made for a dull holiday afternoon. If it wasn’t clear already, it is now: Stafford and the 4-7 Lions need a lot of help.
A tight win against the Panthers on Sunday and the Trubisky injury may have juiced the Lions’ hopes just a little bit heading into another home game on Thursday, but the loss of top running back Kerryon Johnson and the pure terror that is the Bears front seven quickly snuffed them out again. With a minimal ground game except for the occasional bruising rush of LeGarrette Blount, receivers who couldn’t get separation to save their lives, and the constant threat of Khalil Mack’s long arm, the Lions’ offense was predictably stagnant and ineffective.
Stafford’s time to throw on Thursday was a miniscule 2.42 seconds, or a full 0.15 seconds faster than the season’s quickest thrower, Drew Brees. But this was no smooth-running Brees clinic. The Lions’ QB averaged a disgustingly small 4.2 air yards per attempt, which led to punt after punt for most of the game. This throw happened on the first drive, so it may feel a bit harsh to draw too many conclusions from it, but a two-yard pass on third-and-four is the most pathetic football play imaginable, and it pretty much sums up the Lions’ offense’s day:
This scaredy-cat passing “attack” continued on all game, to the point where the Bears felt totally comfortable selling out to stop the flat routes, as Eddie Jackson did for the game-winning pick-six.
Is it time to show a sad passing chart where nearly every completion is five yards or fewer? Baby, it’s always that time:
That one outlier in the top left, by the way, was a pretty third-quarter ball to Kenny Golladay, Detroit’s top wideout by default, who actually took advantage of a mismatch to break free down the sideline for a somewhat electrifying play on a touchdown drive.
One would think Detroit would have wanted to try that more often, but the sad truth is, with second-leading receiver Marvin Jones currently hurt and Golden Tate now playing for the Eagles, Golladay is the only NFL-caliber pass catcher on this team. And sure, an MVP candidate like Drew Brees can earn a win throwing to no-names, but against a defense like the Bears’, with rushers constantly closing in and no one good available downfield, a merely decent QB like Matt Stafford couldn’t do more than toss the game away.
The 30-year-old Stafford’s clock is slowly but surely running out, and if Detroit wants to at least get back to the playoffs while he’s still their quarterback, they’ll have to bring in plenty of reinforcements ASAP.