Remember the time Matthew Stafford trucked a Titans defender?

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 08: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions runs for a third quarter touchdown while playing the New York Giants at Ford Field on September 8, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 08: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions runs for a third quarter touchdown while playing the New York Giants at Ford Field on September 8, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

No single play better sums up Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford than his encounter with Titans cornerback Perrish Cox two years ago.

If you could pick only one play to describe Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to a newcomer, which one would you choose?

For me, it wouldn’t be anything from one of his patented 4th quarter comebacks. His sidearm missiles or audacious heaves to Calvin Johnson back in the day don’t make the cut either. The walk-off touchdown at Minnesota in 2016 was more of a Golden Tate production.

The consummate Stafford play in my mind isn’t even a pass. It didn’t win any games. Not only that, it was a dangerous play that probably had a better chance of ending his season than anything else.

It was in the first half of the 2016 home opener, a sloppy low-scoring game against Tennessee. While scrambling for his life on a 3rd and long, Stafford absolutely ran over Titans cornerback Perrish Cox (full clip here).

I really wish Stafford wouldn’t do this sort of thing, but at the same time, I’m really glad that he did.

Why this play?

I know that in the grand scheme of things, it’s a reasonably forgettable moment. Furthermore, it was basically a high risk, zero reward move.

Stafford was on the receiving end of another big hit at the end of the play. He came up a yard short of the first down. The play didn’t really even count (a Titans penalty away from the ball gave Detroit a fresh set of downs). Ultimately, the Lions fell asleep in the second half of an ugly game and lost, 16-15.

Bear with me though. Doesn’t this one play just fully and perfectly summarize Stafford as a Lions player?

Physical tools

First off, how many other quarterbacks in the NFL are even capable of making that play? Cam Newton comes to mind. Dak Prescott probably. Maybe Roethlisberger if he needed to.

Stafford has tremendous physical gifts, and has been reliant (arguably over-reliant at times) on these gifts over the years to make things happen when a play breaks down. It often involves his arm strength (i.e. the sidearm stuff and the back foot launches), but in this case manifested as using  his 230+ pound frame and turning into a fullback for a few seconds.

Would rather make a play than play it safe 

So here’s a guy who had well-documented shoulder injuries throughout the early part of his career. He’s the franchise QB and about to be tackled well short of a first down in his own territory. It’s the first half of the first home game of the year. Just slide and punt, right? No big deal.

From his rookie year, Stafford’s career has been an exercise in not playing it safe. Dodging team doctors to get back on the field with a separated shoulder. Launching bombs to Calvin Johnson no matter how many guys are guarding him. Faking the spike and diving into the end zone unprotected to beat the Cowboys.

Going down easy just isn’t in his nature, no matter the situation.

**Sidenote: Stafford ran through two Bears defenders at the goal line (and barreled over Eric Ebron for good measure) on a game-winning scramble later in the year.


No matter where your opinion of Stafford lands, you can easily use this play to state your case. This is classic Matthew Stafford in every way.

Stafford Fan: Did you just see Stafford truck that Titans player?? Unbelievable toughness and moxie. Classic Stafford!

Stafford Hater: Yeah I saw it. What are you celebrating anyway? The guy is reckless and got caught up in the moment (and also got wrecked) and still has nothing to show for it. Classic Stafford.

Fan: You seriously can’t appreciate that a quarterback just completely leveled an NFL defender? 

Hater: Ehh, it’s just a cornerback anyway. And he still came up a little bit short.

Fan: His line didn’t block, his receivers didn’t get open, and then they didn’t even come back to help block when he scrambled. You’re blaming Stafford because he only trucked one defender instead of three.

Hater: All I see is a dude with no rings, taking a hit. 

Those are completely different interpretations of the same play, but they’re each probably correct in their own way.

Now entering his 10th year in Detroit, Stafford has almost single-handedly revived a franchise that was the worst team in NFL history the year before he arrived.  Other than long-snapper Don Muhlbach, Stafford is the only remaining player or coach from the 2009 team.

Yet despite dozens of memorable moments, playing through a handful of injuries, and rewriting the team’s passing record book, some still unfairly judge Stafford as much for what he hasn’t yet accomplished than what he has.

Next: The Detroit Lions All-Time Offensive Team

Which is why I don’t think any play better sums up Matthew Stafford than the time he trucked that Titans defender in 2016. As I said, I’d rather that Stafford not subject himself to this type of punishment.

All the same, I’m glad that he’s always been willing to if it means leading the team forward, even if it’s just a few yards at a time.