Matthew Stafford leads the Detroit Lions to victory over the San Francisco 49ers on his way to earning his third Game Ball in the last five weeks.
The Detroit Lions are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning five of their last seven. Matthew Stafford has been the main catalyst in resurrecting their season. During this streak, Stafford has put up some terrific stats. Completing passes at 69.6%, he’s racked up 2,123 yards, a 303.28 average per game. Even more impressive is that he’s thrown 16 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
It’s almost laughable now, but two months ago during the Lions bye week, there was a debate over wheather or not Detroit should release Stafford in the offseason. At age 27, Stafford is completing his seventh season and has taken his skills to a consistently productive level. Under contract through the 2017 season, Stafford’s cap number is in the top half (14th) of NFL starting quarterbacks, averaging $17,666,667 per year (according to overthecap.com). He’s not going anywhere.
Against the San Francisco 49ers, Stafford completed 78.3% of his throws for 303 yards, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. In the second quarter, he connected with TJ Jones (his first career score) on a 29 yard strike for a touchdown. Stafford set up the safety with a hard pump fake to the left, which gave him a small window to hit the streaking Jones up the seam.
Stafford’s second touchdown went to Calvin Johnson and showed great play recognition from both players. The 49ers lined up with two defensive backs over Johnson, indicating a pre-snap read of a double team. Once the ball was snapped, the inside cover man blitzed leaving Johnson in single coverage. Stafford identified the blitzing 49er and promptly zipped a pass to Johnson before the blitz could reach him. Calvin Johnson’s first step sold the fade route, then he quickly countered with his second, and stepped inside the defensive back giving Stafford an easy target for the score.
Theo Riddick was in the Game Ball conversation again. His ability to stop and cut is startling. Always a threat to catch passes out of the backfield, he has found a more significant role in this offense thanks to his improving blitz protection. His final stat line was right along the lines from what we’ve typically come to expect from Riddick, 20 yards rushing and seven receptions for 63 yards.
These average outputs have had a cummulative effects though. In week 16, Riddick broke the Lions recieving yards record for a running back: 668 yards on the season. He is also sitting at 76 receptions, one away from tying another Lions record. It’s safe to expect that at his pace, Riddick will break that record next week.
If the Lions defense played in the first half like the did in the second, there would’ve been a lot more players considered for this weeks Game Ball. Defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor continue to be weekly disruptions in opposing backfields. Ansah looked to still be getting over the flu but managed several pressures and narrow misses throughout the game. Devin Taylor got to the quarterback again in this game, bringing his season total up to a career high six sacks. Haloti Ngata had his best game as a Lion, anchoring a stout run defense that didn’t allow a yard in the second half. Darius Slay and Isa Abdul-Quddus led the team, each with six tackles on the day.
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Previous Game Ball Winners:
Week 1: Ameer Abdullah
Week 2: Ezekiel Ansah
Week 3: Calvin Johnson
Week 4: Ezekiel Ansah (2)
Week 5: Theo Riddick
Week 6: Matthew Stafford
Week 7: Caraun Reid
Week 8: Matt Prater
Week 10: Martha Ford
Week 11: Darius Slay
Week 12: Matthew Stafford (2)
Week 13: Isa Abdul-Quddus
Week 14: Golden Tate
Week 15: Matthew Stafford (3)