Stafford has had some brutal games in Minnesota throughout his career, including one in which he was so beat up it looked painful for him to walk.
None, though, were quite like Sunday, when Stafford spent most of the day either running away from Minnesota’s defense or being swallowed up by it. Stafford dropped back 51 times in the Lions’ 24-9 loss to the Vikings. He ran five of those times -- often after scrambling away from defenders. He attempted 36 passes.
He was sacked 10 times, the most by a Lions quarterback since 2007, when Philadelphia brought down Jon Kitna 10 times. Even worse, Stafford was hit a total of 17 times -- an absurd amount considering that before Sunday, Stafford was the least pressured quarterback in the league.
“I’m not happy about it. I’m pretty embarrassed,” center Graham Glasgow said. “Today was a bad day for us, a bad day for our team overall. We need to learn from it, not do it again.”
Six Vikings had at least a half-sack. Three different Lions drives featured Stafford being sacked multiple times. The craziest stat? The 10 sacks came in the last three quarters of the game.
It unraveled fast and hard and with Stafford on the ground over and over again. It left the Lions somewhat befuddled afterward. Most, when asked what happened, said they would need to rewatch it before they could totally explain it. But, as left guard Frank Ragnow put it, it is a “pretty big shot to the pride.”
“It felt like we got out-physicaled and we kind of let the momentum overtake us,” Ragnow said. “I got to go back and watch the film for sure, but that’s what it felt like.”
Lions coach Matt Patricia said the Vikings had a bunch of different pressures from the front and some disguised coverages in the secondary late, potentially confusing Stafford.
It showed offensively. Only one receiver, Marvin Jones, had over 50 yards receiving (66). The run game averaged 2.8 yards per carry -- down to 2.3 yards per carry when you take out an end-around by Kenny Golladay and a fake punt run by Tavon Wilson.
But it all started with the offensive line and its inability to create holes for Kerryon Johnson (3.1 yards per carry) and Stafford being hit over and over and over again.
“You have a day like that, it’s a little bit on everybody, obviously,” Stafford said. “I’ve got to get the ball out faster. Got to find checkdowns a little bit faster, get the ball out. You know, you get in a game situation like that, when you’re down as many scores as we were late in that game, you’re going to put your O-Line in a tough spot.
“We understand that, never want to have that. I can do my part, for sure, better.”
There’s no doubt on that. Some of the sacks Stafford took were a result of his holding the ball too long or the Minnesota coverage being good enough that no options were open. But the sacks were all over the place. They came on first down, second down and third down. They came with relatively short yardage and obvious passing downs. They came twice on back-to-back plays and four times in the red zone.
Every week, Minnesota defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said, the Vikings see something their uber-talented line can exploit in an opponent.
Sunday, though, went particularly well.
“Just happened to execute pretty much on every time we did it,” Richardson said. “Other than that, we left something out there, to be honest with you.”
It’s true, because there were a few snaps (going back to the hits Stafford took) where he slipped away and got the ball off. Richardson said he felt they left “about three or four” sack chances out there.
“We know they like to put pressure on the quarterbacks, bring blitzes and stuff,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “Again, it’s our job to protect no matter what it is, so we’ll take a look at the film and see what it was.
“But at the end of the day, whatever blitzes they’re bringing, whatever they are doing schematically, it comes down to winning your one-on-one matchups, and we got to do a better job of that.”
The Lions didn’t do that on Sunday. Not even close. Which has to be worrisome with what’s to come -- Chicago twice in the next three weeks, the Rams and still having to play the Vikings again. If this turns more into a trend than an aberration, it could mean a long month of November for a team that two weeks ago had playoff aspirations and now looks like it’s searching to be able to do enough to win even one game.