NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Matthew Stafford health watch has begun anew, an unpleasantly familiar move for the Detroit Lions.
Stafford left late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 44-41 overtime loss at Tennessee with a strained muscle in his right leg, and although Shaun Hill played well in a relief role, the last thing the Lions want is a return to the days when their franchise quarterback wasn’t able to stay healthy. Stafford was banged up as a rookie in 2009 and played only 10 games, and he was limited to three the following season because of problems with his throwing shoulder.
He finally made 16 starts last season, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns.
“We’ll see how he progresses through this week,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “Friday we’ll make a determination what that availability is — same as every team does.”
Detroit hosts the Minnesota Vikings this weekend.
Stafford didn’t have anything to add Monday to Schwartz’s assessment. The quarterback said he’d talk to reporters Wednesday.
Stafford was 33 of 42 for 278 yards Sunday before having to sit out a wild finish. The Lions forced overtime with two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation, including a 46-yard scoring pass from Hill to Titus Young on the last play.
Detroit allowed a field goal in overtime, then lost when Hill was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 7-yard line. Schwartz said the Lions were trying to draw the defense offside, but the ball was snapped following a miscommunication.
“What wasn’t supposed to have any downside ended up having a downside,” Schwartz said. “That’s on me as a head coach.”
Center Dominic Raiola took the blame Monday.
“I totally read Shaun’s lips the wrong way. I ran a fullback dive,” Raiola said. “I know a lot of people say that’s not the play that lost the game, but that’s so cliche. … I’d have asked Shaun three times if I knew that was going to happen. I’ll take all the blame people want to give me.”
The Lions allowed five touchdowns of 60 yards or longer, an NFL first. There was quite a variety, too: two passing TDs along with punt, kickoff and fumble returns for scores.
Hill went 10 of 13 for 172 yards and nearly led the Lions to one of the more improbable wins in league history. Detroit finished with 583 yards of offense but allowed 437, doing little to alleviate concerns about its defense and falling to 1-2 on the season.
That sets up a crucial divisional game with the Vikings. The Lions play four of their next five games on the road after this weekend.
“It’s an NFC North game, “Schwartz said. “If we get a win, it puts a loss on one of our division opponents, and that always makes it more important.”
Detroit did get an encouraging debut from running back Mikel Leshoure, who missed all of his rookie season last year with an injury and was suspended the first two weeks this season. Leshoure ran for 100 yards on 26 carries against the Titans.
“We ran the ball efficiently, we got first downs,” Schwartz said. “That’s one of the things we wanted to do. Just didn’t make quite enough in the game.”
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