Matthew Stafford: Thumb not an issue in Detroit Lions’ dismal offensive performance

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matthew Stafford had his worst passing performance since late in the 2018 season and the Detroit Lions got shut out for the first time in 11 years, but Stafford said his injured right thumb was not an excuse for Sunday’s 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

“As far as throwing the ball, I felt pretty good,” Stafford said. “So it wasn’t too bad.”

Stafford tore ligaments in his right thumb in the first quarter of last week’s win over Washington.

He finished that game, leading the Lions on a latewinning field goal drive, but practiced on a limited basis this week and was listed as questionable for Sunday.

Against the Panthers, Stafford completed 18 of 33 passes for 178 yards.

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“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose a game,” Stafford said. “Obviously, not fun to be part of a game where we don’t score any points. Really don’t even threaten it. We got to play better on offense to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Lions coach Matt Patricia did not directly answer a question about how much he thought Stafford’s thumb impacted his play.

“I think again for us it’s got to be about coaching and putting those guys in good position, and go out and execute,” he said.” There are a lot of things out there that were an issue for us.”

Beyond Stafford’s struggles, the Lions ran for just 40 yards, gave up five sacks and only converted three of 14 third downs.

They finished with their fewest yards since a Sept. 12, 2009, loss to the Chicago Bears, and were shut out for the first time since Oct. 18, 2009.

“We got to protect our quarterback,” Patricia said. “We’ve got to give him a pocket so we can get the ball downfield, and we got to do a better job there. Certainly those aren’t good numbers.”

[ Your turn to grade Lions performance vs. Carolina Panthers ]

Sick Burns

With the eighth pick of the 2019 draft, the Lions selected tight end T.J. Hockenson. One of the players they passed on that year was Panthers defensive end Brian Burns.

Burns had two sacks among five tackles in a dominant performance Sunday. He beat both Taylor Decker and Tyrell Crosby for sacks, and harassed Stafford much of the day.

“The game plan was great,” Burns said. “They had no idea where we were coming from, they didn’t know if I was dropping, covering the slot, covering the back or if I was rushing off the edge or going into the B-gap. We were sending guys from all over the place and they messed up their protection a lot.

“Like I said, I usually don’t get freebies and they decided not to block me. So me standing off the ball, me moving around and putting me in different areas, along with (Jeremy) Chinn and everybody else, that was just great disguises and great execution by the blitzes.”

The Panthers entered Sunday last in the NFL in sack percentage. Burns, the 16th pick in 2019, now has six sacks on the year.

“We moved him around,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “We played him as a linebacker, we played him as a D-end. I think a lot of the blitz packages and the show stuff where we showed blitz and came out, finally got him some more one-on-ones that I thought he won. But at the same time, I thought there was elite coverage down the field. I say that because I know Brian will be the first to tell you that the guys covered really well so he had time to get to the sack.:

Briefly

Rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah left in Sunday’s second half with a shoulder injury. Okudah played in a reserve role for the second straight game, behind Desmond Trufant and Amani Oruwariye.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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