CHICAGO - He has been around so long, it's easy to forget how long Matthew Stafford has been around. But then he plays for the Lions, and in a franchise beset by misery, it's hard to forget the guy who makes sure you lose a little less.
This organization lost 16 games the year before Stafford arrived. And when he couldn't play Sunday against the Bears because of broken bones in his back - well, I don't blame you if your mind drifted to the first 0-16 season in NFL history.
That's about how the Lions looked Sunday, too: scrappy but ultimately in over their heads.
Against the Bears.
A team that got to Sunday with a worse record, a hapless offense, and a frustrated, unhappy fan base. And when that offense, led by Mitchell Trubisky - the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft - trotted off the field midway through the second quarter after its fourth punt of the game, that fan base let him have it.
The third-year quarterback has struggled since he arrived in Chicago. He didn't help his cause early Sunday, when he led four drives that managed a combined 19 yards.
Your turn: Grade the Detroit Lions' performance against the Chicago Bears
Facing one of the worst defenses in football.
So, yes, it's relative. Bears fans would swap Trubisky for Stafford in a second. Many teams would. Sunday afternoon, you got a reminder of why:
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Without him, the Lions are one of the worst teams in football - see their 20-13 loss. No offense to Jeff Driskel, who stepped in for Stafford against Chicago.
Driskel, a former sixth-round pick of San Francisco, started five games last season for Cincinnati. He's 6-foot-4 and can run, and he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. And he extended plays with that size, speed and athleticism against the Bears.
But short of game-breaking speed - hello, Lamar Jackson - quarterbacking still requires throwing and hitting receivers consistently in their general vicinity. Driskel struggled with that.
Overall, Driskel played admirably on short notice - Stafford, who hadn't missed a game since 2011, wasn't scratched from the lineup until Sunday. He hit Kenny Golladay for a 47-yard touchdown pass with less than six minutes left in the game, then led the Lions (3-5-1) on a 65-yard drive to give them a reasonable shot at the end zone to tie the game.
On the game's final play, from the Bears' 25, Driskel rolled to his left and tried to hit T.J. Hockenson in the corner.
The pass was too high. And even if it hadn't been, Driskel threw from beyond the line of scrimmage.
As the teams took the field to shake hands when it was over, Stafford ran up to Driskel and patted his shoulder. He, more than anyone, knows what it's like to walk off the field wearing Honolulu blue and silver after a loss, one that eliminated any sliver of hope for the playoffs.
He also knows, though would never publicly admit, that this franchise would have experienced a lot more losing if not for him.
What happened in Chicago was a reminder of that. And a reminder of this, too:
It can always get worse.
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