3rd and 9: Shotgun formation, Stafford takes the snap and drops back into a clean pocket. Stays tall in the pocket and looks to his left before quickly turning to his right. He takes a strong stride into his throw and fires a pass on a rope to Calvin Johnson. Play Result: 37 yard gain. Comments: This was a great first play for Stafford, his technique was flawless, he made a great read, looked off the deep safety and made a beautiful throw. He put enough zip on the ball the thread it into a tight spot, but also put enough air under it to drop it over the linebacker’s head. The throw hit Calvin in stride and hopefully Stafford has about 15 more years of plays like this in him.
2nd and 8: Shotgun formation again, Stafford reads blitz and knows he has to get rid of the ball quickly. He takes a quick drop squares up to his receiver and snaps off a quick throw to Pettigrew. Play Result: 11 yard gain. Comments: Stafford had to get rid of the ball quickly and made a great read before throwing to Pettigrew. One of the best ways to beat the blitz is throw the ball where the blitzer came from, which is exactly what he did here. He squared up to Pettigrew before throwing, but stepped sideways into his throw. The unorthodox technique is understandable because he was facing pressure, but had this been a deeper throw it most likely wouldn’t have been on target.
1st and 10: Stafford takes the snap and throws the quick screen to Calvin Johnson. Play Result: 9 yard gain. Comments: Not much to this play, Stafford just stepped back, squared up to CJ and made the quick throw on target. CJ did the rest of the work picking up 9 after making the catch.
2nd and Goal: Stafford takes the snap and once again takes one step back before lofting a quick pass to the back corner of the endzone for CJ. Stafford puts a little too much air under the throw and Calvin can’t get his feet down in bounds. Play Result: Incomplete pass. Comments: This is a play Lions fans want to see more of in the red zone. This play doesn’t require reading the defense or much technique, just get the ball high enough that only the receiver has a shot. Despite the incomplete pass, Stafford made a good throw because he didn’t expose the team to the risk of a turnover.
3rd and Goal: Stafford is in the shotgun and sees the defense showing blitz. He takes the snap and is immediately under pressure from both defensive ends. He scrambles to his right and hurries a throw off his back foot while being dragged to the turf. The ball floats high and CJ almost makes a circus catch for the touchdown, but the ball falls incomplete. Play Result: Incomplete pass. Comments: The offensive line really let Stafford down on this play, but Stafford made a rookie mistake trying to complete that pass. He should have gunned it into the 20th row or taken the sack. If it were 4th and goal and the Lions needed a score for the win, I would be ok with the play, but they are tied and in the first half. There is absolutely no reason to be that careless with the ball when the team is in easy field goal range. If that ball gets intercepted it is a guaranteed touchdown for the defense, which would be a 10 point swing against the Lions.
1st and 10: Stafford takes the snap in the shotgun as the Colts rush four. The defensive ends get pressure up the field and Stafford loses patience and takes a short step into his throw into the flat. The throw is low and behind Casey Fitzsimmons who has to slide to make the catch. He is unable to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Play Result: 2 yard gain. Comments: Stafford needs to be a little more patient in the pocket. The defensive ends were pushed behind him keeping the pocket clean. He needs to step up in the pocket and let the play develop. Instead he makes a quick throw with poor technique that prevents the receiver from getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Fitzsimmons probably should have let the ball hit the turf to save time.
2nd and 8: Shotgun snap Stafford retreats to set up a screen pass, but the defense gets pressure too quickly for the play to develop. Stafford gets the pass off to Aaron Brown but he is brought down for a loss. Play Result: Loss of 3 yards. Comments: Stafford didn’t have the time to let the play set up, so he made the quick throw to avoid the sack. I would have preferred he threw the ball at Brown’s feet which would avoid the sack, prevent a loss and kill the clock.
3rd and 11: Stafford takes the snap in the shotgun and drops back two steps, he has a clean pocket as he looks to his left. He does a good job looking off the defense before he goes to his intended target Pettigrew. Once again, he does not take a strong stride into his throw, but the pass is on target despite the poor technique. Play Result: 13 yard gain. Comments: Stafford made a nice quick read, executed the play well by looking the defense off and making a good throw. His lack of proper technique in a clean pocket is driving me nuts though.
1st and 10: Stafford runs the no huddle and sets up in the shotgun. He did a good job of getting everybody up to the line and in position for the next play. He takes the snap and flags fly for delay of game on the defense. Play Result: 5 yard gain. Comments: Technically this wasn’t a play but Stafford managed the no huddle offense well enough to get set up and ready to snap the ball while the defense was still hustling to get set up. A five yard gain and basically a free timeout because the clock stops as a result of the penalty, this could be the difference between having a 50 yard field goal attempt or a 45 yarder.
2nd and 3: Stafford takes the snap in the shotgun and sets up in the pocket. He has time and makes two reads before seeing Standeford break free. Stafford takes a small stride into his throw after squaring up to his intended target and snaps off a crisp throw. Play Result: 7 yard gain. Comments: Nice play by Stafford in every aspect except the usual short stride into the pass.
1st and 10: Stafford takes the snap in the shotgun and retreats into the pocket. He pump fakes but doesn’t look off the coverage before throwing a pass deep down the left sideline. The ball is underthrown and the defense knew where the play was going, it results in an interception. Play Result: Turnover. Comments: It’s hard to tell why the ball was underthrown from the camera angles provided on TV. Stafford didn’t really stride into the throw which usually results in the pass ending up behind the receiver, but he may just have put too much air under the throw or it could have been an intentional underthrow. Surprisingly the safety didn’t get over in time because Stafford stared down his intended target from the start. Bryant Johnson didn’t make a very good adjustment to the ball while the defensive back did, I think a good portion of the blame goes to him for not helping his quarterback out.
1st and 10: Stafford takes the snap and goes through several reads before dumping it off to Aaron Borwn in the flat. Brown looks upfield before securing the catch and drops the pass. Play Result: Incomplete pass. Comments: Stafford did a good job of remaining patient in the pocket and going through his progressions. He made a good throw that was simply dropped.
2nd and 10: Stafford takes the snap and runs the same wide receiver swing play they did earlier to Calvin. This time it’s completed to Keary Colbert who makes some nice moves to pick up some yards after the catch. Play Result: 7 yard gain. Comments: Not much to say on this play, Stafford did a good job of hitting the receiver in stride so he could maximize the gain.
3rd and 3: The Colts bring a big blitz and they get on Stafford before he can even look downfield. Play Result: Sacked for a loss of 13. Comments: Wow, horrific protection on this play. Stafford’s lucky he didn’t get killed.
2nd and 11: Stafford takes the snap and drops back to pass. He reads the coverage and sees one-on-one coverage on the out route. He makes a tight throw that hits the receiver in stride for a good gain. Play Result: 11 yard gain. Comments: Good play by Stafford, I liked how patient he remained in the pocket despite standing on his own goal line. Very nice play.
1st and 10: Stafford draws the defense offsides with a great hard count before taking the snap. He drops back and makes a moderate play action fake that briefly freezes the linebackers. He sets up strong in the pocket and makes a quick read before firing a tight spiral just past the outstretched fingers of the defensive back before Derrick Williams pulls it in for a huge gain. Play Result: 40 yard gain. Comments: Stafford started the play with a great hard count to draw the defense offside. Then having the free play, he decided to take a shot and made a technically sound and accurate throw. Another very good play.
1st and 10: Stafford starts the play with a nice play fake before setting up in the pocket. He makes another quick read and gets rid of the ball quickly. The pass has great touch on it and hits the receiver in stride, but the pass is dropped by Jennings. Play Result: Incomplete pass. Comments: This is Stafford’s third straight play in which he did everything well. He lofted the pass a little high, but it was an easily catch-able throw.
2nd and 10: Stafford reads the blitz in his pre snap read and calls an audible. He sets up in the shotgun and takes the snap. He confirms his pre snap read was correct as the blitz comes, and he makes a quick throw out to his hot receiver. Play Result: 6 yard gain. Comments: Make it four in a row. Good read, solid technique, strong accurate throw.
3rd and 4: Stafford takes the snap and he confirms the Colts are playing a basic Cover 2 defense so he makes the quick throw to Derrick Williams on the slant. Play Result: 9 yard gain. Comments: As much as I liked seeing the completion, I would have liked to see what Stafford would have done if the defense didn’t do what he expected. He read Cover 2 and knew he would be going to the slant route, I wanted to see if they disguised their coverage would he force the slant or go to a different receiver? For the fifth time on this drive, he made the correct read and an accurate throw.
1st and 10: Stafford makes a good play fake to freeze the linebackers, but there was some miscommunication on the play as Stafford throws a pass that doesn’t come near a receiver. Play Result: Incomplete pass. Comments: Hard to say what happened here, so I don’t really have much to critique.
3rd and 5: Stafford is in the shotgun and stands strong in the pocket in the face of pressure. He adjusts well to the disguised blitz and makes the correct read. He steps into his throw and hits Dane Looker in the numbers for a first down. Play Result: 11 yard gain. Comments: Stafford is really coming alive on this drive. He’s showing good patience in the pocket and his technique is looking better. With the exception of the misread play, he has made accurate throws and moved the ball down the field.
Overall Observations: Not much to say other than Stafford really bounced back in this game. My biggest concern after this game is his pocket presence. Stafford stills gets impatient from time to time and his first reaction to pressure is to roll out rather than step up into the pocket. If last week was any indication, Stafford will hopefully learn from this week’s film session and correct his mistakes. His stat line isn’t terribly impressive this week, but he moved the offense. Other than the interception and his 3rd down attempt to CJ, he made good decisions and took care of the ball well. He needs more experience in the two-minute drill to understand when conserving clock is more important than completing passes, but that will come. I still think Culpepper should start the season. The offense has a lot of young inexperienced players and I think Culpepper’s presence gives them the best chance to win.