By: Will Burchfield
Since dislocating his right middle finger against the Bears in Week 14, Matthew Stafford hasn’t looked like the same quarterback.
He’s completed just 60 percent of his passes, thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and logged a measly 76.8 passer rating in three full games. Prior to the injury, he had a 67 percent completion rate, a sterling 21:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a career-high passer rating of 100.5.
But Stafford said on Tuesday his injured finger hasn’t affected his play.
“I don’t think it really does, honestly. I feel pretty solid with it. You know, obviously I have to make some changes, but nothing drastic,” he said.
Stafford finished the Bears game wearing a protective glove on his right hand. He’s adopted a modified garment in the games since, one that only covers his middle finger. Either way, it’s something the eight-year vet isn’t used to – and the numbers bear that out.
“I think I’ve said all along, this guy has thrown millions of balls without a glove on his hand or without an apparatus on his finger,” said Jim Caldwell. “It’s naïve for me to think that doesn’t have some kind of an effect. It does. But does it keep us from winning? No.”
Stafford had his best post-injury performance to date on Sunday versus the Packers, completing 26 of 41 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. But for the third game in a row, it wasn’t enough.
The Lions fell to 0-3 in the three full contests since Stafford injured his finger.
“You’ve got to overcome some things,” said Caldwell. “I think that’s just kind of the way the game is. You don’t look for excuses. Excuses are tools of incompetence. They’re used by monuments of nothingness. Those who specialize in them are seldom good at anything else, so we don’t look for any excuses. We’re in the winning business.”
Both Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter have maintained in recent weeks that the Lions’ playbook has not been compromised by Stafford’s injury. The quarterback reiterated this on Tuesday, explaining the passes he attempts have nothing to do with the health of his finger.
“No, you know, I don’t feel like any certain throws are easier or harder than others to tell you the truth,” said Stafford.
It’s impossible to deny that Stafford’s play has slipped since his injury. And it’d be a stretch to suggest the two aren’t related. Lions’ fans will simply have to hope for the best heading into Saturday’s showdown in Seattle because Stafford said on Tuesday he hasn’t tried playing without the glove.
“I don’t think that’s really possible to tell you the truth, kind of need to have it,” he said.
Saturday’s forecast in Seattle calls for rain and temperatures in the high 30’s. But inclement conditions are unlikely to affect Stafford’s preparation in regard to his finger.
“As far as weather goes, we’ll see when we get there,” he said. “I’m not planning anything major.”