Sunday afternoon, Matthew Stafford had his chance to silence some of his critics by delivering an NFC North title, a home playoff game and a long-awaited road win against the Green Bay Packers.
Yet Monday morning, the critics had all the reason to chirp again following the Detroit Lions’ 30-20 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. This time, it wasn’t that the quarterback played poorly or made several critical mistakes which let the team down.
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Once again, however, the record will show that Stafford couldn’t find a way to get the win he needed to. In the NFL, quarterbacks are judged on their ability to win big games regardless of the fact that it also takes quality special teams, defensive play and line play to do so. Like it or not, those are the facts.
The raw numbers certainly don’t paint a cheery picture of Stafford’s tenure in Detroit. Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News tweeted the historical carnage. In total, Stafford is now 3-31 against teams that would end up with a winning record, including an 0-17 mark on the road. He’s also 0-1 in the playoffs.
Often times, the only thing standing between a win or a loss in a big game is a quarterback’s ability to make a few key plays. Take Ben Roethlisberger Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, or Aaron Rodgers against the Lions. A handful of throws by both paved the way to clutch victories. That’s been the case for other quarterbacks in the playoffs.
Stafford has never been able to consistently make those elite plays and thus, get the overwhelming amount of credit when his team wins.
Temporarily, there’s good news for Stafford: Detroit was already in the playoffs regardless of the outcome against Green Bay, meaning he can’t be held responsible for the team falling short of that major expectation in 2014. The bad news? Pressure ratchets up even more as the Lions travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s what happens this time of year when you get into the playoffs,” Jim Caldwell said Monday about the challenge the Dallas Cowboys present. “You get a chance to play the best and see how you measure up.”
Historically, the Cowboys and their quarterback Tony Romo have been labeled as chokers unable to secure key victories when it counts. Anything less than a big game from Stafford in his home town will leave the door open for even more criticism, fair or not. Detroit’s quarterback has actually won less on the big stage than the much-maligned Romo has.
Without a significant turnaround in the win column when it counts, it will be hard for fans and the organization to ignore the obvious: that Stafford is a quarterback unable of willing his team to the biggest victories, making measuring up against the best virtually impossible. The clock is beginning to tick louder in this department.
Without a significant turnaround in the win column when it counts, it will be hard for fans and the organization to ignore the obvious: that Stafford is a quarterback unable of willing his team to the biggest victories.
In such a way, the Lions might not be able to wait much longer at the quarterback position if another quick playoff exit happens. General manager Martin Mayhew has done a quality job remaking the team, but his record will always be most hitched to Stafford, as will Caldwell, the coach who was brought in to help fix the franchise quarterback.
In this case, negative perceptions and bad realities are beginning to mesh perfectly, which is becoming bad news for the signal caller.
With every big game failure from here on out, the pressure will constrict even more. Considering the stakes, Stafford will face his most significant career test this Sunday in his home state.