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'I can play better': Lions' Matthew Stafford refuses to point finger after embarrassing loss

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Charlotte, N.C. — Matthew Stafford has seen a lot of losing in his 12 years as the Detroit Lions quarterback, but this was a new one. For the first time in a game he started, the Lions finished with zero points. And the team's 185 yards of offense in the 20-0 loss to Carolina, they were the fewest in a game he finished. 

Yet, as he always does, to the frustration of fans who want to see a more fiery response from the longtime franchise quarterback, Stafford pointed a finger at himself and not the coaching staff that's done little to maximize his talent and the talent around him. 

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

"Obviously, I can play better, I'm the guy that touches the ball on offense every play, so the better I play, the better we'll play as a team," Stafford said. "Just got to be better myself."

Stafford was asked directly if the game plan was good enough on Sunday. He backed it, saying Carolina played defense exactly how the Lions expected, they just weren't able to counter. 

"It wasn't so much the game plan as it was our execution, you know?" he said. "It was both run and pass, we weren't efficient enough to get them out of it and it's every defensive coordinator's dream to be up 17 late in the game and being able to dial up every fun blitz you can never think of. That part of it is not the part where we won or lost the game. We got to be better early on in that game."

And asked if coach Matt Patricia was the right guy for the job, again, Stafford didn't have a negative word to say.

"Listen, we're here to play football," Stafford said. "That's our job. His job is to coach it, and we appreciate the work he puts into it, we know that. All of our coaches work their tail off to try and get us out there in good positions, and it's on us to go make plays. We just show up, work, play. Coach shows up crazy early, stays crazy late, works his tail off and — we got to go execute these game plans a little bit better to help us win."

More:Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Wretched offensive display merits zilch across the board

Stafford went as far as to say the team is "absolutely" still responding to Patricia's coaching, even if the results on the field suggest otherwise. 

About the only frustration Stafford would admit was he's tired of answering these questions loss after loss. 

"Honestly, you look across the league, everybody's got a ton of talent," Stafford said. "It's the teams that execute that win. That's what it boils down to. The team across the ball from us today has a ton of talent and they executed better than we did. That got them a win. I know it's frustrating for you guys to hear, and you guys don't see that or think that, but we know. We see every team that we play that's got players that can break the game open and win a game, including us, so we got to go out there and be better when the ball is kicked off on Sunday."

But the question remains, will it ever be the Lions' turn with Stafford at the helm? This was his 159th regular-season start and he's been on the losing end 85 times. He's never won a division title or a playoff game, losing in the Wild Card round all three trips. He'll be 33 before the start of the 2021 season. 

When will the Lions be the team that out-executes its opponent, not for one week, but for the entirety of a season, and will Stafford be here to see it? 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers