Matthew Stafford's slump has led to Lions slipping

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - Matthew Stafford put the football where only Brandon Pettigrew could catch it, lofting it over a linebacker to the tight end right in front of a defensive back.

Stafford's perfect pass put him in a position to throw a go-ahead touchdown for the Detroit Lions against Baltimore.

All was well _ for a moment.

Detroit's defense failed to stop the Ravens from setting up Justin Tucker for a sixth field goal and Stafford threw his third interception of the game on his next snap to seal an 18-16 setback Sunday.

Stafford has been in a slump and so have the Lions.

He has 12 turnovers over the last five games as Detroit has dropped from first to third place in the NFC North.

Instead of being in control of their postseason fate, the Lions have to beat the New York Giants at home and Minnesota on the road while hoping Chicago and Green Bay both lose at least one game to rally for a spot in the playoffs.

"You have to move forward from it and go try to win the next two," Stafford said Sunday.

Stafford wasn't available for interviews Wednesday _ his weekly session with reporters was pushed to Friday _ but his backup, Shaun Hill, and running back Reggie Bush were willing to defend the quarterback.

"When you play this position, you get more credit than you deserve when things go well and more blame than you should when you don't," Hill said. "People have a lot of opinions when they're watching, but it's impossible to explain what it's like to be an NFL quarterback. It would be cool if someone could come out with something to see what a quarterback actually sees on a field."

Coach Jim Schwartz tried to deflect criticism of the turnover-prone Stafford on Tuesday toward his teammates, saying they could all do more to help him.

The next day, Bush agreed.

"Some of things you guys don't see could be a receiver that runs the wrong route or we didn't pick up a blitz, he gets hit in the back and the ball gets tipped in the air," he said. "It's not just all on Stafford and we know that as an offense and that's why we don't put all the blame on him."

Stafford, though, is taking the brunt of the blame for Detroit going from 6-3 and being in sole possession of first place after beating the Bears on Nov. 10 to 7-7 and facing the possibility of not making the playoffs even if it closes the regular season with two wins.

He has an NFL-high 12 turnovers since Week 11 _ three more than Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Geno Smith of the New York Jets _ according to STATS.

Manning has known Stafford since he attended his family's passing camp while attending Georgia. Manning remembers thinking Stafford's arm strength was impressive and expected him to have a bright future. Manning, the No. 1 pick overall in 2004, said he understands what Stafford, selected first overall five years later, is going through.

"With the quarterback position there is a special fraternity and you do root for guys," Manning said.

Schwartz is pulling for Stafford perhaps as much as anyone because the coach might need the QB to lead the team to two straight victories to help him his job.

"He's our quarterback and he's going to play well for us," Schwartz said. "We're one game down with two to play. There are a lot of things that can happen over these next two weeks and Matt's a big part of our ability to be successful."

NOTES: Bush was limping after practice Wednesday with ice packed around his left knee, but said the ice was what made him limp. ... CB Chris Houston was limited in practice after missing last game with a toe injury. .. WR Calvin Johnson, who usually sits out of some practices to rest, Pettigrew (ankle), CB Darius Slay (knee), S Louis Delmas (knee), LB DeAndre Levy (foot), S John Wendling (ankle) and P Sam Martin (groin) did not practice.



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