December 17, 2013 at 11:47 am

Chris McCosky's Four Downs

Matthew Stafford takes rap for ineptitude of Lions offense

First down

Quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to shoulder the blame for the potentially fatal 18-16 loss to the Ravens Monday. And certainly, with three interceptions and a passer rating of 48, he deserves a lot of it.

But his head coach and teammates were quick to rally to his defense.

“It’s a group effort,” center Dominic Raiola said. “It’s not Matthew’s interception. We take that as a group. Let’s hold off on putting it all on No. 9. It’s frustrating.”

Calvin Johnson, who dropped two passes that were right in his hands, echoed that.

“You can’t blame (Stafford),” he said. “It’s everybody. Balls get tipped, bunch of crazy stuff happened. Matt played good. We’re not putting this on Matt.”

Coach Jim Schwartz said Stafford did not play his best game. He hasn’t been at his best the last six weeks. He’s turned the ball over 13 times, 11 interceptions and two fumbles, the last six weeks.

“Some of it is decision-making,” he said. “The one throw into the middle of the field, it was a traffic jam in there. The other ones, you just have to keep throwing. If you are a quarterback, you can’t worry about throwing interceptions.

“But they certainly affected us the last couple of games and it affected us in this one. There were a couple of scoring opportunities we weren’t able to take advantage of because of the turnovers.”

Schwartz, though, remains ever confident in both his quarterback and his team.

“I like the character of our team and I like the toughness of our team,” he said. “And I like our quarterback. Our quarterback will bounce back. He’s going to play great over these next two games.”

Second down

The heat on the seat just got a lot hotter for Schwartz. It wasn’t a mandate, but entering his fifth season at the helm and coming off a 4-12 season, he needed to get this team back into the playoffs — especially after starting 6-3 with the Bears and Packers both playing backup quarterbacks.

But, as they have in every season under Schwartz, the Lions are faltering in the second half.

The speculation about his future will be a topic for debate from this day forward. He was asked if he needed any assurances from the team.

“The only assurance we need is, we have two games to play and we’re one down in our division,” he said. “That’s the only thing we need to worry about. We have to find a way to win against the Giants and then go on the road and win in Minnesota.

“After that we will let the dust settle and see where it takes us.”

Third down

Matt Elam, who garnered more attention than he bargained for when referred to Calvin Johnson as being old, might have gotten the last laugh, but he wasn’t about to press his luck.

“No disrespect to Megatron,” the Ravens safety said. “I didn’t mean it that way. But I just feel like it’s Monday night, you’ve got to come to play. Everybody’s watching. You’re going to be up for this game anyways, it shouldn’t be somebody having to call somebody out to play a good game.

“You’re going to play a good game anyway because it’s Monday night and everybody is watching. You want to win. No disrespect to Megatron, he’s one of the greatest receivers in the game. No disrespect for him. It’s just my competitive spirit. I just wanted to win.”

Fourth down

Reggie Bush had 42 yards in five carries in the first quarter, but only one carry for four yards in the second. He sat out the final two possessions of the half.

“I wasn’t hurt,” said Bush, who missed last week with a calf injury.

He did leave for a bit to put his shoe back on, and he did seem to get banged up a couple of times. But Schwartz said he wasn’t on a pitch count.

“He wasn’t limited,” he said. “He was moving good, playing tough. He was making a difference in the game. We were just shuttling him and Joique Bell in like we normally do.”

After the fast start, Bush finished with 86 yards rushing on 17 carries. He caught two passes for 15 yards.

In retrospect, they might have underused him.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

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Matthew Stafford was 18-of-34 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted three times. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News
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