Stafford’s Maturation Showing Up Big for the Lions Against the Rams

Embed from Getty Images

Matthew Stafford‘s poise and decision making evident on film against Rams in Week 6

Decision Making Taking Steps Forward Under Cooter

Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford has always been referred to as a “gunslinger”. Many analysts have put him in the same category as Brett Favre, play-style wise. The idea behind this play style is to take a chance on riskier throws because you trust in your arm strength and wide receivers to make a play.

Through much of his early career Matthew did very little to sway people away from this narrative. There were many times where we would see Stafford throw a ball into double or even triple coverage because he believed in his receivers to make a play. Sometimes they did. But many times these risky throws resulted in interceptions and missed scoring opportunities.

This is not the case with Stafford under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. We have seen a maturation in Matthew Stafford the past 14 games since Cooter took over for the Lions. This has become a very prominent reason behind the Lions victories this season. His rise has been evident on film.

On 3rd down, Stafford surveys the field and goes through his reads. He sees that there is no easy completion for a first down. Stafford does a great job sensing the pressure from behind and taking off to run for just enough yards to get a first down.

In previous years, Stafford likely would have thrown the ball into coverage. While you do not like your quarterback to take hits, the decision Stafford made on this play was that of a quarterback who has matured. This smart decision making has lead Stafford to 33 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions in the past 14 games. His +27 turnover differential is tied for 1st with Russell Wilson over this time frame.

Another step in Matthew Stafford’s maturation as a quarterback is adding a top veteran move to his tool belt by developing a great hard count. Matthew Stafford seems to have adjusted his hard count as the number of offsides penalties on opposing defense looks greater this season. On this play, we see Stafford hit his hard count perfectly and catches the Rams defensive tackle off guard making him jump offsides.

Stafford looks downfield to take advantage of this situation and sees a broken coverage leaving Golden Tate wide open. Stafford also hits Golden right in stride so that Tate can get extra yards and set the Lions up for an easy touchdown.

If Stafford miscues his hard count the outlook of this drive, and consequently this game, is on the line. Not only does he have the ability to catch the defensive player on the hard count, he has the awareness to realize he has a free play in real time. This leads to the biggest offensive play of the game for the Lions and a big reason the Lions won this game.

Film Room Mentionable Players

Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had a great game. At times, running back Zach Zenner was missing holes the offensive line was opening up, because he is an inexperienced back who lacks the patience to take advantage of these holes. Early in the 3rd quarter, following a penalty, the Lions are on 1st and 20 and Cooter calls a draw for Zenner. This takes the patience element out of the play and results in a 19 yard gain. These adjustments were huge for the Lions this week.

Tackle Riley Rieff had some huge plays this week, knocking his helmet off blocking for Golden Tate on a big play in the 1st. He consistently dominated at the point of attack in the running game and did not allow hardly any pressure this week.

Graham Glasgow did a solid job stepping in for injured guard Larry Warford. It’s not often you see a rookie step into a position he doesn’t play and be able to hold his own against the best interior defensive lineman in the league in Aaron Donald. Rookie left tackle Taylor Decker continues to impress as well.

Darius Slay had an up and down game this week. Kenny Britt won most of their matchups. However, Slay made a couple key pass breakups to help the Lions secure a victory.

Ziggy Ansah did not really show up at all this week. It’s clear he is still working through his injury and is not 100%. Ziggy did not register a single tackle.

Teryl Austin play calling is improving slowly but surely. He has an uphill battle with a very weak defense, but had a decent “bend but don’t break” approach this game.

Follow me on Twitter @kingwarbs and check out our other articles on!

More From The Detroit Lions Podcast