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Chargers hit left Lions’ Stafford with numbness in arm

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Allen Park — In Sunday’s loss, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was rattled after an unabated clean hit by Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram, which led to the first of two interceptions by Stafford in the game.

The hit did more than help turn the tide of the game — it reportedly also left Stafford with numbness in his throwing arm and fingers. On the next Lions possession, Stafford threw another pick, intended for Golden Tate.

Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Thursday that the injury may have impacted Stafford’s ability to throw and his accuracy.

“His second interception might have been affected by that just because he was a little bit numb and I wasn’t as aware because it was pretty quick and we were back out on the field,” Lombardi said. “I didn’t realize his arm was hurting a little but it quickly got better and didn’t affect us after that.

“It probably should have affected his play call but I wasn’t aware that his arm was kind of numb.”

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Both picks came in the third quarter on back-to-back Lions possessions and after the first interception, the Chargers fumbled on the ensuing drive. When the Lions got the ball back, the offense went just two more plays — one run and a short pass by Stafford to Ameer Abdullah for minus-3 yards — before the second interception on third-and-14.

Following the second pick, the Chargers needed just three plays to get a touchdown, as Stevie Johnson scored on a 12-yard pass play from Philip Rivers, closing San Diego’s deficit to 21-20 with 4:03 left in the quarter.

It was part of 30 straight points that the Chargers scored, turning a 21-3 hole into a 33-28 come-from-behind victory in the season opener.

Stafford wore a protective sleeve after the second interception and during practice on Wednesday, but Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday that Stafford has been “fine” in practice, opting not to comment further on Stafford’s condition nor the fact that Lombardi was unaware that Stafford’s arm was numb during the game.

Tate said Thursday that he didn’t notice any difference in Stafford’s throwing during the game and wasn’t aware of his condition but wasn’t surprised that Stafford played through it.

“Looking back at it, you kind of (notice the difference). One of the interceptions (the second) that was thrown in my direction, he was supposed to throw that down the field,” Tate said. “I later found out that he couldn’t feel his fingers — which is kind of important for a quarterback. It was tough because it could have been a game-changing play.

“He’s a tough kid and for him to stay in through pain in your throwing arm says a lot about him and how much he cares. He’s willing to put his body on the line every time he goes out there.”

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Caldwell complimented Stafford’s toughness in playing through the injury issue and finishing the game, giving the Lions a chance up to the last possession.

“You’re looking at a tough kid who you guys have been around a long time. This guy is hard to get out of a ball game,” Caldwell said. “He’s played with a number of issues that have come up because of getting knocked down, tackled, etc. in some very, very uncomfortable situations. But he’s not one to complain or shy away from it.

“As you guys know, seeing him with his arm hanging, in his rookie year I think it was. He just kept going, you know, and that’s kind of his attitude, and that’s certainly the way in which he performs. Oftentimes that’s why he is who he is. He’s tough, hard-nosed and he’s going to give it a try before he backs down at any point in time.”

Stafford appears on the Lions’ injury report this week but was listed as a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.

Tate, who took a pop on a special-teams play, had to get treatment from the trainers but is expected to play Sunday against the Vikings on Sunday.

“It’s unfortunate what happened but I’m happy it wasn’t so serious that it’s going to keep him out for games,” Tate said.