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Stafford Pulls Off One for the Ages

Yes, it was against the lowly Browns. And yes, if the Lions were playing good football they never would have given up 37 points to a team which has not scored that much all year. And yes, if Stafford had not have thrown an interception in the endzone on the penultimate drive (I love using that word), the last second heroics would not have been necessary.

But all that being said – you gotta be impressed.

Even though the Lions gave up 24 quick points in the first quarter, and though they made Brady Quinn look like Tom Brady, they never gave up. The Lions offense finally showed fans what they have been waiting to see all year. Deep passes to Calvin Johnson, strong rushing and receiving efforts from the running backs, and a two first round picks finally show more than a glimpse of their talents. Even the defense stopped the bleeding in the second half, and prevented a late 3rd down conversion that would have sealed a win for the Browns.

However, as many kudos can be spread around – from Jeff Backus’s pancake block that sprung Aaron Brown for Detroit’s first touchdown, to Kevin Smith’s amazing run fake that allowed Will Heller to slip uncovered into the end zone, to Brandon Pettigrew pulling in everything thrown his way (including the all-important game winner) – the day belonged to Matthew Stafford.

Nothing endears a player to Lions fans like showing toughness in the face of adversity. Not only did Stafford refuse to give up when his team was down 24-3 in the first quarter, but he refused to stay on the sideline for the last play of the game after sustaining what was obviously a very painful shoulder injury. To then go on to throw the game winning touchdown with no time left on the clock is something that few Lions fans will forget (even the ones who could only see replays because the game was blacked out).

Stafford still has some developing to do if he is going to ever join the ranks of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. His mechanics and footwork, even on his “good” throws, were sloppy and erratic. His 75 yard touchdown toss to Johnson appeared to be thrown off his back foot, which shows just how amazingly strong his arm is. It also shows that he got lucky, since we have seen him overthrow that same ball many times this year. His decision making is improving, but he was holding onto the ball too long in too many plays. The offensive line can only do so much, and in today’s NFL the quarterback needs to know where the open receiver is within just a second of the ball being snapped.

All criticism aside, the rookie quarterback looked good on Sunday. Darn good. He looked like a player who has the talent, courage, and determination to make the Lions offense dangerous again. In one game – indeed in one play – Matthew Stafford has become the unquestioned leader of this team. Long live the king!

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