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Stafford Takes Heavy Blame For Lions’ Fall

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CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 15: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks for a pass during the first half against the Cleveland Browns of a preseason at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 15, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 15: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks for a pass during the first half against the Cleveland Browns of a preseason at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 15, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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ALLEN PARK (AP) — There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Detroit Lions’ fall from the NFC North driver’s seat to a Week 17 game with no playoff implications.

It’s particularly hard to ignore the performance of quarterback Matthew Stafford during the team’s late-season slide.

The Lions (7-8) have lost five of their last six games, including their last three. A win Sunday at Minnesota would leave Detroit at .500, a far cry from the 6-3 mark it had at the start of November.

Stafford’s play has followed the team’s fortunes. He has an NFL-worst 14 turnovers since Week 11: 12 interceptions and two lost fumbles. His most recent interception was returned for a touchdown late in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

“There are definitely throws that I wish I had back,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made some good plays, but the bottom line is winning and losing games.”

The Lions went 10-6 during the 2011 season, ending an 11-year postseason drought. They’ve gone 11-20 since.

Last season ended with an eight-game losing streak and 2013 was particularly difficult for Lions fans who watched division rivals Chicago and Green Bay lose their starting quarterbacks to injuries midway through the fall.

Stafford was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for the 2011 season, during which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to help the Lions secure a wild-card playoff berth. He finished that season with a 97.2 passer rating.

It’s 83.6 this season, 21st among league quarterbacks.

Stafford has said he’s not affected by recent criticism of his play.

“I don’t really listen to it or read it, honestly, or hear about it,” he said. “It’s actually been pretty stress-free for me.

“I want to play good. Not for (reporters), but for my teammates and for the coaches in the locker room.”

Coach Jim Schwartz scoffed at a question of benching Stafford after a Week 15 loss to Baltimore.

It hasn’t helped that All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson appears to be playing injured. Neither Johnson, who missed several plays in Sunday’s loss, nor Schwartz would confirm or deny a report that Johnson has been playing with a torn knee ligament since a Nov. 10 win at Chicago.

Johnson, who has 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns, did not practice Wednesday.

NOTES: The Lions placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season. The five-year veteran injured an ankle late in the loss to Baltimore and has not practice or played since. He finished the season with 41 receptions for 416 yards and two touchdowns. . Guard LaAdrian Waddle still was wearing a walking brace on his left foot Wednesday. He left late in Sunday’s game and did not return. Detroit is 7-23 at Mall of America Field, which hosts its final game this weekend. The record is the worst among NFC North teams, none of which has a winning record there.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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