Matthew Stafford Comes of Age

Matthew Stafford's improvised dive sealed a miraculous comeback win for the Lions. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford’s improvised dive sealed a miraculous comeback win for the Lions. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

Matthew Stafford’s coming-of-age moment.

“SPIKE! SPIKE! SPIKE!”

We’ll get to that.

First, some background. Since being the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Matthew Stafford’s always been young for his peer group. He’s 25, and he’s midway through his fifth season; he won’t turn 26 until five days after the Super Bowl. But he had some Drew Brees, some Peyton Manning, in him down the stretch Sunday, taking Detroit 80 yards in 44 seconds to a victory they had no right to expect. Certainly, this was not Stafford’s first big comeback. This was his 10th fourth-quarter comeback. But this one just felt different to me. Something about the high-tension accuracy and the big-boy decision he made with the game ticking away.

Stafford made two artful throws that he dropped perfectly into the hands of wideouts Kris Durham and Calvin Johnson on the drive, pressure throws that traveled 42 and 27 yards in the air. Those two balls could not have been thrown more to the target, which was important because both receivers were being well-covered.

Let’s start with the first one. Lions ball, no timeouts left, 2nd-and-10 from the Detroit 37, 40 seconds left, Dallas up 30-24. “Three verticals,’’ Stafford recounted, meaning, of course, he sent three wideouts downfield to varying lengths of patterns. “I think everyone in the stadium thought I was throwing the inverse route to Calvin. But they put a new kid in at safety, and I was going after him.”

Dallas made rookie safety J.J. Wilcox inactive because of injury and called up Jakar Hamilton to be active for the first game of his NFL career. Welcome, Jakar. That’s Calvin Johnson, the greatest receiver on the planet, over there. Hamilton played 16 snaps in the game as the last DB on the roster, and was in on the last drive because starter Barry Church went down with a hamstring strain. Stafford rolled to the right and looked to the right, freezing Hamilton, the deep safety, then came back left and lofted a high spiral to Durham. He beat Orlando Scandrick. Perfect throw, and Hamilton was late getting over, leading to a gain of 40.

You just feel it. Hard to explain. You just go to the line and you feel it sometimes, and I just felt: Our best chance is me taking to the ball and diving it over.

Next play, snapped at the Dallas 23: Johnson up the right seam. Hamilton late coming over again. Stafford making a perfect throw again. Gain of 22 yards and 30 inches. Ball at the six-inch line. Clock running … :26, :25 … Johnson looks at the official to see if he was getting the touchdown, but no, the ball would be marked just shy of the goal line. From the rear sprints Stafford.

Now :21, :20 … Stafford motioning to the offense to hustle up the field. “I was looking back, yelling for [left tackle] Riley Reiff to hurry up,’’ Stafford said … :19, :18 … Now motioning madly for Reiff to get in place, while also yelling “SPIKE” and giving the universal “spike’’ signal, the hand gesturing hard to the ground, over and over … Reiff in place, at :16.

“So I’m on the line, and everyone in the stadium thinks I’m spiking it, and that was the plan,’’ Stafford said. “The other 10 guys [on offense] thought I was too. I thought I was—but then I saw a couple of their guys, almost standing up, and I just had this thought: Maybe I could make it by sneaking, or just putting the ball over the line. Maybe that was our best chance.’’

But no timeouts left. Clock running. If Stafford failed, there was a chance he wouldn’t get another play off.

“Oh, no question,’’ he said. “That was it. That would have been the last play of the game; we weren’t getting another one off. That runs through your mind. You think, ‘Boy, I’ll get a minus on the play sheet when we go over this.’ ‘’

So why? Why do it? Why not the fade to Johnson, who could win a jump ball against most of the Dallas defenders—shoot, against all of them? If it’s incomplete, another fade, or a rollout pass.

“You just feel it,’’ he said. “Hard to explain. You just go to the line and you feel it sometimes, and I just felt: Our best chance is me taking to the ball and diving it over. I mean, all we were was three inches from the end zone.”

Snap … :14 … Stafford takes the ball, grips it as tight as he can, and with much of the defensive line looking on impassively, he thrusts the ball clearly over the line and brings it back. Touchdown.

“It’s as good as it gets on a football field,’’ Stafford said. “We turn it over four times and there we are at the end, still fighting. What a game. That’s one great moment.’’

Victory. (Rick Osentoski/AP)
Victory. (Rick Osentoski/AP)

***

Coming later this week: More about three stars of the season’s first half—Dallas middle linebacker Sean Lee, and quarterbacks Andy Dalton of Cincinnati and Cam Newton of the Panthers.

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365 comments
samantha.reinsel35
samantha.reinsel35

Hey Queenie,

Eagles the biggest disappointment....in your face, you're missing too many of your so-called expert opinionated statements.

Maybe it's time to hang up your pen and paper!!!!

BronzeBomber
BronzeBomber

Offenses are pretty efficient nowadays Peter.  Shouldn't we nerf them as well?

AlDavis
AlDavis

Way off on the field goal and extra point take. Absolutely no reason to make it harder. The Rams miss from 50 last Monday night is a perfect example of a missed field goal costing a team a game. It still happens and even though an extra point is a gimme I still want to see them make it. Gives the team on the short end of the score a chance sometimes, slim, but a chance. Nothing needs to be done. The NFL has already made too many rule changes. Enough is enough.

sterculius65
sterculius65

Dear Peter,

Sorry to rain on your orgy of piling on the Eagles

in MMQB but so many of your claims are not backed

up by the facts (to put it nicely).

For instance...

"I think the Eagles have to be the disappointment

of the season."

Really? Really? Bigger dissapointment than the the

2-5 Falcons coming off a 13-3 season and a Super

Bowl pick by many? Bigger disapointment than the

Steelers? Bigger disapoinment than the

Redskins...?

Fact is most people had the Eagles at best going

8-8 and most not even that. To say they are the

biggest dissapointment is pure drivel. They are

record wise right where most people thought they

would be.

" A Chip Kelly team first and foremost has to have

consistency and efficiency at quarterback, and

Philadelphia hasn’t had that all season"

Again really? Look at the QB ratings by game....

1. Vick 112.6
2. Vick 123.4
3. Vick 49.4
4. vick 83.6
4. Foles 155.2 (garbage time)
5. Foles 114.9, vick 69
6. foles 133.3

Weeks 7 and 8 are disasters of course but weeks

1,2,4,5 and 6 all make your cliam the Eagles

haven't had consistency and efficiency at

quarterback all season clearly absurd.

"Why, oh why, Chip Kelly, when you’re one score

behind with four minutes to go, your defense

playing well and three timeouts left do you onside

kick?"

Agreed but thay had one timeout left, not three.

Again if you are going to criticize at least have

your facts straight.

"The problem in Philadelphia, which is lucky to be

3-5, is Kelly can’t hang his hat on anything in

his offense."

Lucky to be 3-5?

Lets see they have won by margins of 6,15 and 9

points. They have lost by margins of 3,10,32 and

8. I'd say they are pretty much where they should

be but if you want to bring luck in to it then if

they had any they would be closer to 4-4 than 2-6.

It makes me wonder just how much of the Eagles you

have watched this year...

HonoluluBlue
HonoluluBlue

Greatly overlooked stat from the Lions-Cowboys game.   Stafford set the NFL record for fewest games to reach 15,000 yards passing.  Better than.....everybody.  Name your QB.

Stafford haters repeat after me....Joe Montana would have been nothing without Jerry Rice....not tell me how silly you feel.


BeholdTheWolverine
BeholdTheWolverine

I see I'm not the only one getting annoyed at the petulance this column (sorry...business site) is showing.  Just this week alone the Diva-nature about this NOT being SI.com.  Well, that may be true, but I'm pretty sure that's where 99% of your readers read it, and how they associate it, and that they/we/I don't care about any legal distinction between the two.  If you want to be your own, then don't run it on SI.com and start spending the marketing dollars so people know (or care about) the difference.

Second, the Patriots didn't ignore Troy Brown's advice either.  Since the Patriots were never down 24-7 his advice was moot.

Seriously, don't you think the internet is snarky enough as it is without adding to it?  This column (or whatever) is not as enjoyable as it was before this reincarnation.  Harder to follow, harder to read, and all in all less fun and enjoyable.  I may be in the minority, but I don't view this as an improvement.

RayHuggyBearYoung
RayHuggyBearYoung

Thats MMQB.Si.com  Peter.  If you really want your site to be all MMQB  cut away from Si.com.  Its part of your web address and writers can give credit to Si.com on it.

cdawg
cdawg

I am a 9er fan and still think you ranked them too high. I think they should be 5th behind Denver and Seattle along with Indy and KC

2229JEFF
2229JEFF

I have been following your concussion stories with some interest.Not sure but it seems you are missing the obvious problem. Playing a contact sport with a fibreglass helmet and padding must be a factor when combined with such large, powerful athletes.We play a variety of contact sports here in Australia and no rigid padding or helmets are permitted in either of the Rugby codes or Australian Rules football at a professional or amateur level. While we have incidence of concussions they seem to be dealt with in the main well and we do not appear to be suffering the same issues as you are in American Football with respect to retired players.Would there be more or less concussions if the pads and helmets came off ?

Dustin3
Dustin3

meh.... a lot of QB's will have a "coming of age moment" when they play Dallas' defense. Dallas is the only NFL team to allow more than one 400 yard passer so far this season......and they've done it 4 TIMES.

jj55
jj55

Memo to Peter King (said with slight annoyance). The MMQB is a blatant to attempt to "brand" you as SI's answer to Bill Simmons and Grantland. Stop whining, keep writing, and let SI's publicity team position your website as America's gift to football. We readers will ultimately make that call, not you.

BobLang
BobLang

Kickers are making a lot more kicks… more domed stadiums have anything to do with that? Probably can blame it on global warming. 

Also, I don't think you meant to write from the 40-49 yard line. I think you just meant 40-49 yard field goals. From the 40-49 yard line would be 57-66 yard field goals. I have a hard time believing that kickers are making 80 percent of those. 

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

3. San Francisco (6-2). Five straight wins by an average of 22.6 points. This team’s getting scary. Think of the room to grow for this offense entering the bye: In the last two weeks, the Niners have scored 73 points in two road wins a total of 10 time zones from home … and gotten only 363 yards and one passing touchdown in the process.


the 49ers, third, really?????

how about some context...  since the Niners barely beat the Packers on opening day they've played two winning teams --- they got crushed by both, losing 29-3 at Seattle and losing 27-7 to the Colts in SF..

the Niners five straight win came against St. Louis (3-5) Houston (2-5), Arizona (4-4), Tennesse (3-4), Jacksonville (0-8)... 

are we supposed to be impressed  because the 49ers are blowing out the worst teams in football?  

they haven't beat a team who's over .500 since opening day..

djp9192
djp9192

watching the weekend highlights i think i've never seen worse open field tackling ... arm tackles easily bumped off, or even air swings ... they really need to bring in some tackling coaches from rugby!

beekay31
beekay31

Stafford has come of age?  Is that why he needed 14 receptions and 329 yards from a single WR, one that just happens to be one of the best WRs to ever play the game, to eke out the win?  Look way, way back to 3 weeks ago against GB to see how well Stafford performs without Calvin Johnson.

gaucant
gaucant

How does Jason Garret not call a time out to set his defense. It's a huge play in the game and the defense is spent. Seems like the Cowboys always mismanage the clock and lose winnable games.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

Tom Brady struggles with a bunch of no-name receivers and he gets headline after headline.  Aaron Rodgers does the same thing - and putting teams AWAY, no less - and he doesn't even get a mention this week.  Really?  44 points with Myles White and Jarrett Boykin and Andrew Quarless, and not a single mention?

I get that Peter is a Pats homer and all, but, in the immortal words of the guys on ESPN...

C'Mon, Man!

Mat X
Mat X

No style points in football?  C'mon Peter, you don't know how Division 1-A/F*BS* college football works, do you? :-D

Dale15
Dale15

I am amazed that you are giving so much credit to Stafford and less to the gross negligence of the officials.  On Dallas's last drive they call Tyron Smith (holding) which stopped the clock.  Good call, no problemw with that.  On Stafford's long completion to #18 the I saw stretch jersey HOLDING and.....................sigh, .no call.  Both were critical situations with differing standards of officiating.   Hmmmmm, if the same standard existed from play to play by the officials Stafford's play would be a mute point.  Why don't you point this out instead of glibly latching on to a headline story?!!!

decredico
decredico

pete king is the kid in high school that was always the last one choosen in pick up games ... hes a dolt .. he is nothing more than water carrier for the league spewing propaganda each week for middling minds to suck up ... anyone reading this and for real insight is just about as dumb as king

JPSmall
JPSmall

@sterculius65 I pretty much read this column because, despite all the bluster and unending support of certain players and teams, king gets almost unparalleled access to players and coaches. Add to that the new forum for players to actually write the article, and I'll stick around for a bit, but the new website (difficult to navigate) and pete's old tricks make it easier to miss every week. 

Why.
Why.

@BeholdTheWolverine IF you are in the minority than a lot of others here are too. I have posted this before about the article quality taking a nose dive. I think the mmqb (separate from si.com) has been a horrible idea. 

BrockDakiller
BrockDakiller

@2229JEFF I, as an American, like that idea. If yer nut is not in a shell, yer not as likely to try to crack it. Good thinking there, I think.

Nathan16
Nathan16

I was going to make that point too. Also, artificial turf is much better now than it was 15 years ago. How many kickers slipped on that crap in Texas Stadium when it was wet or cold?

Nathan16
Nathan16

Hush, Peter has a man crush on one-read Kapernick and doesn't want you pointing that out.

noly972
noly972

@djp9192 Or, the NFL could put the players through 'Heads-Up' Football training so that they could learn the proper tackling techniques they're supposedly teaching kids. But, I'm with you - the tackling is getting worse and worse. I blame the new contract with reduced practices overall and particularly practices with pads. 

 As far as your rugby coach idea, I believe that football could use some rugbyization. Aside from tackling coaches (a good idea), if we went back to leather helmets, head-first hits would become a thing of the past. In fact, concussions may become almost a non-issue since the players would be much more aware of protecting their heads. There's also the possibility that the concussions would be less severe. Violence in the game would be, by necessity, reduced. Instead of turning it into two-hand touch, rugbyize it a little.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@djp9192 The one thing that bothers me most in all of football - regardless of who is playing, regardless of which team they play for - is defenders not tackling properly.  It's the most basic thing that kids are taught how to do on defense, and yet it seems like nobody in the league can do it.

I think the media coverage and highlight reels spun by all the sports networks have given rise to players always wanting to be in those highlights instead of just doing their jobs.  And more often than not, arm tackles and the big hit lead to a missed tackle.

BobLang
BobLang

@beekay31 Guess you missed the pass on the last drive that set up the win. The one that maybe 5 or 6 QBs could make. Your boy Rodgers had a stinker against Cinci a few weeks ago and I bet you didn't berate him. Stafford is an elite QB. Deal with it. 

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore All right, genius, where exactly is the Brady "headline" in this column? He made two appearances under things King didn't like, a section Rogers would be happy to stay out of, and a mention in the section about the batting play. Hilarious how King gets accused of being a "homer," even when he essentially just focuses on Brady for two sentences, and they're both about how bad he was. Sorry there wasn't another sentence saying "Aaron Rogers has perfectly routine win against the godawful Vikings" so you could go to bed without crying yourself to sleep.

BobLang
BobLang

@Dale15 Those were the only two holding calls made differently all game? You know the saying about holding, right? You could call it on every play. 

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@decredico So, since you were reading the column, you are pointing out to everyone how dumb you are.  Makes me wonder where you were "choosen" in pick up games.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@decredico Why don't you just literally vomit on your keyboard next time? It'd be about as insightful.

BobLang
BobLang

Is Jordy Nelson a "no-name receiver"? I would argue that he is better than anything New England is running out there right now. Wait, I don't want to upset you. Rodgers is the best thing to happen to QBs since Montana retired. Shoot, he had Rice to throw to. Best thing since Bradshaw. No no, he won 4 Super Bowls, and had two hall of famers to throw to. I give up. Rodgers is the best. Ever.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore King has historically ignored everything the Packers do.  Last week, King sang nothing but praises for Brady and his win with no-names, even going so far as to turn a question in his mailbag last week about the Vikings into a diatribe about how great Brady is with a bunch of no-names.

So I'm just curious as to why Rodgers doesn't get the same treatment.  Hell, all he could say was that Rodgers won against a bad Vikings team, which diminishes that Rodgers led the Packers to 37 offensive points (7 came on the punt return) with no-name receivers, even though last week Brady barely won with no-names but got almost a full page.

And learn how to read, you moron.  I never stated the headline was in today's column, only that he continues to ignore what Rodgers does even though he does it with the same pieces Brady has, only doing it better.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore  I'd probably ask that you actually reply to the right thread. And ill-timed? Are you currently verbally abusing your sainted mater? Did I interrupt? Or have you apparently just never heard the very common phrase "You talk to your mother with that mouth?" and were unable to see that paraphrase? It's cool, though. I totally understand the urge to call someone a a moron and an ass-hat on the Internet, then feign being insulted. Have a graham cracker or something. It'll cool you down.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

When the object of your ill-timed and accusatory violence (punch my mother?) is no longer around, I find the insult to be directed at her. And in very poor taste. I'll ask that you just go away now.

BobLang
BobLang

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore @BobLang Finley's injury might be helping the Packers. He can't drop any balls from the sidelines. And I'm not a Pats homer. Can't stand them. 

Cobb is a no name? Jones is a no name? Nelson is a no name? Finley is a no name? He was throwing to all stars until 2 weeks ago. Great work against a horrible Vikings team. but hardly headline worthy. 

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @BobLang Jesus Christ, stop homering for the Patriots. Gronk's injury gets post after post, but not a word about how injured  Jermichael Finley is.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@BobLang And Gronk isn't a no-name either.  Granted, Gronk has been out since recently.  But still, Rodgers has been getting the job done with a bunch of no-names - just like Brady.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget It's funny, for a dude who expended a ton of energy talking about how I can't read, you apparently weren't able to pick up on the fact that I was actually insulting you. Your mother's a classy lady. An angel among women, and every day I weep for her secret shame that she has a son with a potty mouth on the Internet and a weird mad-on for Peter King.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore Really?  That's the best you can come up with?  Insulting my mother?  How original.  How mature.  I'm so angry.  Oh, the humanity - you resorted to the ultimate retard comeback; Hulk smash!

Serioiusly - my mother?  Can't discuss football intelligently, so you decide to insult someone's mom?  Dude, you need help.  Real class move there.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget This is pretty a pretty solid dialogue, and I'm learning a ton about proper conversation here! Last question, do you punch your mother with that mouth? Should I?

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore Well, let's see.  You've:

1.  Put words in my mouth that I never uttered;

2. Obviously haven't read the column longer than a week, otherwise you'd know Peter is a Pats homer;

3.  Are attempting to inflame an issue that has nothing to do with you.

In my book, yes, this makes you an ass-hat and a moron.  You can't read, you want something to be there that isn't, and you make shit up to try and make yourself look better.

And now, the troll food gets put away.  I should know better than to feed you idiots.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget Wait, it doesn't work by me pointing out that you're weirdly obsessed with this idea that PK loves the Patriots and using as an example a column where he bashes Brady and just happens to not mention Rogers, then you calling me an ass-hat and a moron? 

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget And yet you can't seem to comprehend that "equal treatment" would be verbally pummeling Rogers for making no-chance throws to a TE. But don't be mad, baby! I like being the pain in your ass better than being in anyone else's!

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore Just asking for equal treatment.  But you are apparently too stupid to comprehend that, so I'll put the troll food away and let you wander off to be a pain in someone else's ass.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget So ... you're complaining that in this column, Aaron Rogers in not mentioned, because Tom Brady is mentioned in the headlines of other stories. That makes perfect, perfect sense. On a related note, I'm pretty angry that Peter King doesn't mention The Good Wife in this column, while that crappy Sleepy Hollow show is getting headline after headline in Entertainment Weekly.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@SpartanTarget @CoreyLivermore If you can read so well, then tell me where in the sentence "Tom Brady struggles with a bunch of no-name receivers and he gets headline after headline." do I mention that the headline was in today's column.  Well, I'm waiting...

Done waiting.  Why?  Because I never stated the headline was in today's column.  Nor did I infer or imply it.  You want to see something that isn't there so you can try to make yourself look better.

If you're going to accuse someone of something, make sure you have proof to back it up, ass-hat.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@CoreyLivermore @SpartanTarget Oh, man, where could I have gotten that "headline" thing from? You're right. My reading's not so good. My copy-pasting is much better, though. Maybe I got it from this: "Tom Brady struggles with a bunch of no-name receivers and he gets headline after headline." And I love the line "King has historically ignored everything the Packers do," like you're picking through Chaucer texts here. Sorry you're really, really upset that this lacked a platitude section about Rogers. Maybe next week he'll be terrible for an entire half of a game and King can grouse about him, too! 

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