Protection Not There For Stafford

The Detroit Lions might have lost Sunday's matchup from the first snap. Literally. Notes and quotes from Allen Park inside ...

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has drawn praise for how he handled so much duress during Sunday's 27-10 loss at Minnesota. But why was he under so much pressure? Why did he take three sacks and 13 hits?

It wasn't just because the Vikings have one of the best front sevens in the NFL, although that was a part of it. The Lions lost individual matchups up front, but worse, they simply broke down from the very beginning.

"I think it started with the first play of the game," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We had a miscommunication, and we cut a three-technique loose. ... We had issues with communication. We had issues where we were cutting guys totally free.

"It's one thing to get beat physically. It's another thing to give up a play where a guy's just walking in on your quarterback and the quarterback has to throw the ball away. That's where we can't allow it to happen."

Left tackle Jeff Backus did a decent job on defensive end Jared Allen, who entered the game tied for the NFL lead with 10 1/2 sacks but didn't record one in the game.

But with so much attention on Allen and the Williams Wall -- dominant defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams -- the right side of the offensive line struggled.

Defensive end Ray Edwards had a huge day against right tackle Gosder Cherilus, with two sacks, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Edwards said he took advantage of poor technique by Cherilus.

And when the Vikings blitzed, the Lions made too many mistakes. Stafford was too often surprised.

"It's one thing when they see a free guy and they know protection-wise, 'That guy's not picked up, I've got to throw hot off that guy,'" Schwartz said. "That's one thing. But when there's guys that are expected to be picked up, it's different. We did a poor job in protection, and that hurt us in this game."

Stafford survived, though, and he gave his offensive linemen a pep talk late in the game.

"I just kind of walked down the line and talked to the guys and let them know that I trust them," Stafford told WJR-AM in Detroit. "I really do. They've been great to this point all season, and sometimes you're going to have a game where you don't perform as well as you like.

"I just wanted them to know that I knew that nobody out there was not giving it their all. Maybe they missed a block or missed an assignment. But they're trying, and I appreciate it."

Player Notebook:

  • QB Matthew Stafford avoided interceptions Sunday at Minnesota after throwing five the previous week at Seattle, even though he was often under pressure. He took three sacks and was hit 13 times. He went 29-for-51 for 224 yards and a touchdown. His receivers dropped at least four passes, and his accuracy waned as the game wore on.
  • RB Kevin Smith fumbled on the first offensive snap of the second half Sunday, and the Vikings cashed in with a quick touchdown to take a 17-3 lead. Smith also fumbled in the third quarter of the Lions' last game against the Vikings, Sept. 20, also a 27-10 loss. He had 55 yards on 12 carries this time.
  • TE Brandon Pettigrew dropped two more passes Sunday. He caught only two of the six targeted for him, finishing with 23 receiving yards. He continues to work on his consistency.
  • WR Calvin Johnson dropped one pass Sunday. He caught eight passes for 84 yards. Three catches for 48 yards came on a two-minute drill at the end of the first half that resulted in a field goal. Johnson still isn't as big a factor as the Lions would like.
  • WR Bryant Johnson dropped a would-be touchdown pass late in the second quarter Sunday, and the Lions had to settle for a field goal. The ball slipped through Johnson's arms and hit his right shoulder as he dove in the left side of the end zone. He caught two passes for 17 yards.
  • CB Jack Williams will miss the rest of the season after suffering a significant knee injury Sunday. He got hurt on his first defensive snap for the Lions, who claimed him off waivers from Denver last week.
  • S Marquand Manuel suffered a shoulder injury Sunday. The Lions were waiting for test results.
  • S Kalvin Pearson suffered a hamstring injury Sunday. The Lions were waiting for test results.
  • S Louis Delmas should return soon after sitting out Sunday with an infected tooth.
  • RG Stephen Peterman might miss significant time with an ankle injury he suffered Sunday. The Lions were preparing to replace him, possibly with someone outside the current roster.
  • WR Derrick Williams suffered a hip injury Sunday. The Lions were waiting for test results.

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