At this point, Matthew Stafford may be used to this scenario. Struggle some in the beginning, deal with the adversity… then come through in heroic fashion in the end. Who can forget this classic, after all?
It was that way Sunday.
The Detroit Lions QB threw three picks in the first half against the Rams, appearing out of sync. It looked like a brutal opening loss was in the cards. Except, there he was on the final drive, marching 80 yards in 1:45 to win it on a TD pass to RB Kevin Smith. Ho hum, Stafford was 6-of-8 passing for 80 yards on that drive, with one incompletion as a spike.
What did we learn?
“Yeah, we’re never out of it,” Stafford told me yesterday, while doing a promotional interview for Van Heusen, which we’ll get to in a minute. “That’s the fun part about playing in this offense for this team. We’ve come back so many times now. I did it a bunch last year, we did it in Dallas with our defense, we did it in Oakland with our offense. There’s different ways to do it and this team, we’re a tight-knit group, we’re never out of it. With the talent and firepower we have on both sides of the ball, we’re just a few plays away from getting ourselves back into a game.”
He’s right. In his short career, Stafford has led six fourth-quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives. He had four just last year. On Sunday, the result was a 27-23 win over the Rams that had him finish 32 of 48 passing for 355 yards and one TD with three interceptions.
It’s kind of amazing, really, when you compare his terrible performance in the first half with what he showed in the second half. Nuts. He agreed.
“It was crazy, because honestly, the first half, we moved the ball great and I just made three bad plays,” Stafford told me. “And I gotta commend them for capitalizing on them. I’m not short-changing those guys, they made plays on the ball, too. But it was something… I always believe in myself. I always knew that my teammates and I can get it done. It was a blast coming back in the fourth, and obviously winning on that last-second drive.“
It can be unnerving to practice all preseason, get the game plan ready, then come out and look so bad showing it off. Yet Stafford said he took solace in his preparation. He leaned on that. That’s why he wasn’t as frustrating as one might think early in the game.
“Obviously, there’s frustration when you drive 14 plays and you throw a pick on 1-yard line and then you drive down in the red zone and throw another pick and those kinds of things are frustrating,” he continued. “Not only to me but the whole team. I wanted to make sure I did my part to try and give us the best chance to win. Obviously, I didn’t do that in the first half. Put that onus on your own shoulders and go out there and try to play that much better in the second half, and we were able to do it and put enough points up to win. Our defense did a heck of a job keeping us in the game, giving us a short field, that’s something where, they’re going to be games where we’re struggling and as an offense, we need to pick them up. You gotta have that give-and-take as the season goes on to make sure you’re successful.”
As for why Stafford was speaking on a Tuesday instead of… whatever else he does? The Van Heusen Institute of Style campaign launches today, and he joins Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice for it on the website. Essentially, the company has created a “playbook” for dudes to improve their style, with all sorts of NFL-sounding tips. Improve Your Field position, etc. Stafford and I talked about that and some football stuff yesterday.
Stafford, himself, will get some style tips as he transitions from college guy to the formal wear of grownups. In addition, fans can win a trip to NYC to learn how to dress (and go to a game) on the company’s Facebook page.
“I have a girlfriend. For me, it’s just trying to look good for her, that kinda thing,” Stafford said. “But it’s an awesome program. It’s really fun for me to work with them and go from dressing in college to being a professional athlete. Yeah, I’m excited to be working with them, obviously, the Van Heusen Institute of Style. It gives me a chance to work with Steve Young, Jerry Rice. It’s awesome to me as a football fan, a football player, always looking up to those guys and you get to look up to them not only on the football field, but also through style as well. It’s a really cool thing.”
MORE: Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson shares his thoughts about Stafford’s comeback performance and much more on the “Dave Dameshek Football Program” podcast.