Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/18/11
Matthew Stafford is the latest Lions quarterback to learn that there is no protective pocket after having a bad game. The phone lines on sports-talk radio have been burning all week from callers who suddenly perceive Stafford as the problem, not the solution, in the Lions recent struggles. The Lions are 1-3 in their last four games, and Stafford had one of his worst games as a pro in last weeks 37-13 loss at Chicago. He had four interceptions, and two were returned for touchdowns. Coach Jim Schwartz has no concern that last weeks game was anything but an aberration, or that there will be any lingering effects in Sundays crucial game against the Panthers at Ford Field. The least of our worries is our quarterback, Schwartz said. Staffords record this season indicates he will have a bounce-back performance against the Panthers. My prediction: Lions 23, Panthers 17. It doesnt cover the seven-point spread but keeps the Lions on course to make the playoffs. When it comes to rating Stafford, and professing that the Lions have a better option at quarterback, people have short memories, selective memories or no memories. Last weeks game must have wiped clean the memory of Staffords performance in the first eight games 19 touchdown passes, four interceptions. Through eight games, only the Packers Aaron Rodgers was better than Stafford with a 24-3 ratio of TD passes to interceptions. Windy conditions at Soldier Field and playing with a broken index finger on his right (passing) hand contributed to Staffords poor play last week. And so did the inevitability that even the greatest quarterbacks have bad games. The Patriots Tom Brady had 4 TDs and 4 interceptions in a loss to Buffalo earlier this season. Stafford played only three games in 2010 because of injuries to his right shoulder, but since opening day of 2010, the Chicago debacle was the only one in which Stafford had more interceptions than touchdowns. Thats a span of 12 games. Even Rodgers hasnt done that in his last 12 regular-season games. He had an interception without a TD pass in a 7-3 loss to the Lions in Game 13 last year. Rodgers was knocked out late in the first half with a concussion and did not play in the next weeks loss to New England. Here is the Fox Sports Detroit Lions-Panthers Breakdown: Lions spotlight: Raiolas 150 Center Dominic Raiola has been more than just a feisty presence in 11 seasons with the Lions. Hes been a durable, reliable player. Hell start his 150th game with the Lions, and its his 166th game overall since coming to the Lions in 2001 as a second-round draft pick in 2001. Raiola has missed only four games, all in a row in 2008 because of a thumb injury. Ive always prided myself on showing up every day and trying to stay as healthy as possible, and showing up to work as prepared as I can be, Raiola said. That would be my role on the team. Thats what I can bring. Its just how I was raised, the gym I was raised in, throughout my career. You cant get hurt. Theres no time for being hurt. Left tackle Jeff Backus was a first-round pick in 2001 and has started every game. Sundays game will be No. 170. Backus was a starter as a rookie. Raiola was a backup and did not start until opening day of 2002. Its amazing, guard Rob Sims said of the durability shown by Raiola and Backus. Its nothing short of amazing. Those two guys came to work every day for 11 years. Panthers spotlight: Cam Newton The rookie quarterbacks statistics have declined since his fast start, but that was expected and do not detract from what hes accomplished. In a short time, Newton has become the face of the franchise and silenced the predraft critics in every way -- passing, running, maturity and leadership. Newton started the season by passing for 422 yards in a loss to Tampa Bay and did even better the next week, throwing for 432 in a loss to the Packers. For the season, Newton has completed 60.2 percent of his passes with 11 TDs, 10 interceptions, 374 yards rushing and 7 rushing TDs. Its given us most certainly hope, and thats probably a big word people use around here, said Panthers firstyear coach Ron Rivera. But what hes done is, hes given a little bit of swagger as well. Theres an air of confidence about the young man. Hes got a tremendous amount of belief in who he is as a football player and as a person, and it kind of rubs off on these guys. You guys (the Lions) are in a great situation with Matthew Stafford. You guys have someone whos becoming your franchise quarterback. Well, thats what Cams becoming for us. Lions key matchup: Panthers WR Steve Smith Smith is short at 5-9, but he still plays a big game in his 11th pro season, all with Carolina. Smith has been Newtons go-to guy, with 51 receptions for 951 yards and 4 TDs. Defenses cant concentrate solely on Smith, though. Theyve got play-makers everywhere, said Lions cornerback Chris Houston. The Panthers have a triplethreat running attack, with three players with more than 300 yards rushing DeAngelo Williams (398), Newton (374) and Jonathan Stewart (350). Tight end Greg Olsen chips in with 34 catches and 4 TDs. QB Gloves: The controversy over Matthew Stafford wearing gloves last week was heightened in part by FOX network analyst Brian Billick harping on it during the game with no knowledge on Billicks part that Stafford wore the gloves to get a better grip because of a broken index finger. In his weekly appearance on ESPNs Mike & Mike show, Billick acknowledged that his comments were made without knowledge of the broken finger. Wearing gloves isnt new for quarterbacks. Super Bowl winners have done it most recently Kurt Warner of the Rams, Giants and Cardinals, and Jim McMahon, who played for the Bears in the 1980s. McMahon wore gloves in the playoffs for the 1985 Bears team that went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl. It was widely thought that McMahon wore the gloves in games at Soldier Field to keep his hands warm. McMahon said later that he wore them to get a better grip on the ball. I even threw some spirals, McMahon was quoted as saying at one point. I may wear them the rest of my career.
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