I’d like to start this post off with a quiz. Quick, name the top 5 quarterbacks in passer rating in the NFL right now. Rodgers, Brady, Brees…umm. Those three were easy, weren’t they? No Peyton Manning, so that one is out. Umm…his brother Eli? Yep, nice pick-up.
Who is the last one? Mike Vick? No, to injury prone and running yards don’t factor into the equation. Matt Ryan? Nice try, but he had the below average start. Philip Rivers…Tony Romo…Ben Roethlisberger? Close but no cigar.
As you probably were able to guess consider who is likely to be reading this (and by the title), it’s Matthew Stafford. The numbers are awe-inspiring. That’s a bit much. I should qualify that. It’s awe-inspiring for Lions fans who are used to names like Charlie Batch, Joey Harrington, Scott Mitchell, Jon Kitna, Andre Ware, Erik Kramer, and Rodney Peete.
Take a look at the numbers. All the stats we are going to look at are for the quarterbacks that have played at least 10 games this year.
Attempts: 568 (second)
Completions: 356 (second)
Completion Percentage: 62.7 (seventh)
Yards: 4145 (fifth)
Touchdowns: 33 (fourth)
Interceptions: 14 (tied for seventh)
Rating: 93.8 (sixth – he’s actually sixth with quarterbacks with 10 starts because Matt Schaub had 10 starts before being injured)
The only scary number on there is the 14 interceptions. I can’t argue with that, and you never want to make excuses, but OVER half (9 to be exact) of those came with the glove/broken finger fiasco. Since taking the glove off against New Orleans three games ago, Stafford has only thrown one pick, and that was against the Saints.
Numbers only tell half of Stafford’s story. How about the grace under pressure? The comebacks he lead against the Raiders, Vikings, and Panthers were something rarely seen around here. We are so used to the Lions throwing in the towel at the first sign of trouble. Not Stafford. Tony Romo helped a little to much to give Matt all the credit for Dallas, but he did help finish it.
You can play the “Calvin Johnson” card all you want, and it’s a fair card to play. Calvin Johnson is a freak of a talent. I’m happier than hell he’s wearing Bubbles on his helmet. You can’t tell me he’s the only reason why Stafford is good. Sure Calvin is a big target. Sure he goes up and gets a lot of balls. But, where was that throw in the end zone to take the lead in Oakland? In his hands. Where was that throw that got the Lions out of the goal posts’ shadows with a minute and forty to go…again, in the bread basket. How about the Titus Young TD against the Vikings. Perfect!
Stafford was 29 of 52 against the Raiders. Lions’ receivers were credited with 8 dropped passes. Eight! Could you imagine how many more yards Stafford would have had with just half of those complete. He would have been over 400 yards.
The most remarkable fact behind Stafford’s numbers, besides 9 picks coming in three games with a broken finger, is the fact the Lions can’t run the football. They haven’t had anything resembling a running game since Jahvid Best went down, outside of Kevin Smith’s effort against the Panthers. The Lions are 28th in the NFL in rushing…28th!
That 28th in rushing has another ill-effect, which is the inability to convert on third-and-one or fourth-and-one stat. The Lions are only around 50% in those situations. Are you kidding me? Think how many more drives, throws, and points even 15% more of those conversions could yield. Despite that fact, they are still 9th in total yards and 4th in points per game. Remarkable.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, Stafford hasn’t miss a game all year. As a matter of fact, Shaun Hill has only thrown three passes this season. Tough-as-nails Stafford has played injured, and with the exception of a three game stretch, has played well doing it.
I’m not ready to say Matt Stafford belongs in the same breath as Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rogers. What I am saying is that if he doesn’t melt down in the next two games, and follows up this year with a similar season next, you’ll have a hard time saying he doesn’t belong.