Detroit Lions fans experienced a heart wrenching 2015 season, and taking a closer look at quarterback Matthew Stafford’s passer ratings shows his improvement by the end of the season.
The Lions lost their first five games, and went on to be 7-9 for the season. It wasn’t until week six that the Lions got their first win, squeaking out an overtime victory over the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Losing two more before the bye week, the Lions came back and won six of the final eight games. There is an apparent demarcation line in the Lions’ schedule this past season, and that same story is told in Stafford’s performance.
The chart below shows Stafford’s rising Quarterback rating through the 2015 season. A passer rating is calculated from a player’s passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. This stat line has been used by the NFL since 1973 and helps to determine who the passing leader is each year. The scale of the passer rating is from 0 (being the worst) to 158.3 (being a perfect rating).
The above graph charts each game and the corresponding rating. Stafford began the season with an 83.5 rating against the San Diego Chargers. This rating is considered average. During this game Stafford threw 19 completions for 246 yards. He scored twice, and had two picks. The result of the game was a loss, 28 to 33, with the Lions going up 21-3 early in the second quarter. In the second half the team collapsed into a hole they would continue to dig until after they let go of Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi.
The graph shows Stafford’s rating slipping in each subsequent game until it bottoms out at 50 during the Arizona Cardinals game. This was the horrific game where Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer scored 3 times on the Lions defense, and Head Coach Jim Caldwell was forced to sit Stafford.
Detroit Lions fans can mark this as the beginning of the end of their season. Fans were reminded of the 2008 season where the Lions went winless. Many began calling for a replacement for Stafford, losing trust in his ability to win games.
Caldwell stuck with him saying, “Going forward, we do think he’s our best quarterback.”
He was ultimately right; for the next 11 weeks Stafford performed consistently above average. He had a couple bad weeks, one even almost as bad as the Cardinal’s game, but by Thanksgiving he had a commanding hold on his job.
His best game came against the New Orleans Saints during week 14. Stafford was hailed as a champion compared to the elite Saint’s quarterback Drew Brees.
“For all the arm talent Matthew Stafford has displayed in his seven NFL seasons,” reported ESPN. “It was his efficiency and decision-making that sparked the Detroit Lions to a big lead and helped prevent them from squandering it.”
The team held on to victory finishing 35-27, even with Brees becoming the fourth quarterback to surpass 60,000 yards in a career during that game.
If Stafford can keep his efficiency consistent and above average next season, we could hear talk of him being elite rather than what we are used to hearing, that we are washed up.