Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford says thumb is ready for Thanksgiving vs. Houston Texans

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Quick turnarounds are not as easy as they used to be on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, not at 32 years old and nearing the end of his 12th NFL season.

“The older I get, the more physically challenging it gets,” Stafford said Tuesday.

That goes double this week.

Not only was Stafford sacked a season-high-tying five times in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, but he still is dealing with torn ligaments in his right thumb.

Stafford played with a thin black brace on his thumb against the Panthers and was listed as limited on the Lions’ estimated practice report Tuesday for the second straight day, though he insisted his thumb feels “pretty good.”

“All things considered, playing a game just a couple days ago, so I feel pretty good about it,” he said.

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Stafford completed 18 of 33 passes for a season-low 178 yards against the Panthers, and the Lions (4-6) were shut out for just the second time in his career.

That loss, and the offense’s dismal performance, left a sour taste in the Lions’ collective mouth, one that Stafford said the whole team is anxious to get rid of.

“Obviously, not the performance we wanted last week on either side of the ball, but especially on offense,” he said. “Putting up no points isn’t acceptable and we know that. But excited to have a chance to get back out there and play again really quick. There’s all sorts of challenges this week, it being a short week, but we’re excited to get back out there and play pretty quick.”

The Texans (3-7) have won two of three games since their Nov. 1 bye and are coming off a 27-20 win over the New England Patriots.

They’re nearly two months removed from firing head coach Bill O’Brien, and have difference-making players — defensive lineman J.J. Watt and quarterback Deshaun Watson — on both sides of the ball.

“(Watson is) really unbelievable,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “I’ve played him, obviously, for a number of years and really, during his rookie year, he broke onto the scene in one of the games against us and just had a phenomenal game. I would say the thing about this guy that is amazing is how competitive he is all the way through the game. It doesn’t matter the situation, this guy always has that mentality that he’s going to make a play to win, and a lot of times he does.”

The Lions and Texans have not played since 2016, the year before Watson came into the league. Stafford said that unfamiliarity adds to the difficulty of the week, though the two teams did practice against each other for three days last summer.

“We don’t play them every year, so there’s quite a bit to learn in a short period of time,” he said. “So we’ve got to get to know these guys both personnel and scheme-wise, figure out who’s going to be available, who feels ready to go play for us and then go out there and try to play as well as we possibly can.”

While Stafford will play Sunday, the Lions have injury concerns at running back (D’Andre Swift), wide receiver (Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola), cornerback (Jeff Okudah) and on the defensive line (Da’Shawn Hand).

Patricia said the Lions crammed two days of preparation, a typical Wednesday and Thursday, into their Tuesday schedule, and will jam two more days — Friday practice and Saturday walk-through and meetings — into Wednesday.

After that, it’s onto Ford Field for the 81st edition of the Lions’ Thanksgiving game.

“As far as our team, we have another opportunity to go play a game in the NFL, Thursday, Thanksgiving in Detroit, it’s a huge tradition, something we’re all excited about,” Stafford said. “We understand how many people are going to be watching this thing at home and it gets us fired up to go play. We still have a ton of opportunities to go play football and turn this thing around, get it going in the right direction.”

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

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