Stafford’s first 10,000 yards (cont.)
4. Stafford goes down against the Jets (Nov. 7, 2010)
From mid-2007 until the end of 2010, optimism for the Detroit Lions was like trying to catch the leaves off a tree in an autumn wind. Dozens of little flashes of color all around, but just as soon as you really start to grasp it, the breeze plays yet another cruel trick to send it just out of reach and into the ground.
Stafford left the season opener in 2010 with a shoulder injury, as the Lions held a surprising lead on the road at Chicago. This of course, turned into the infamous “Calvin Johnson Rule” game. After a 1-5 start, Stafford returned to the lineup, and that optimism briefly returned via a 37-25 win over Washington.
Leading a strong Jets’ team the next week by 10 midway through the 4th quarter, the Lions had possession of the ball and every reason to believe that with Stafford on the field, they could jump right back into the playoff hunt.
And then Stafford went down holding his shoulder again, and we instinctively knew that the season was over. The Jets of course scored twice to force overtime, and kicked a field goal in OT. Stafford remained out for the rest of 2010. Back then, the question was “where could this team be if they had Matthew Stafford?”, rather than “where would they be without him?”
5. The Minnesota Comeback (Sept. 25, 2011)
2011 was the first year of the comeback for #9. Comeback Player of the Year. Comeback wins from 20-0, 27-3, 24-7, and 27-14 deficits along the way. Coming back from two seasons cut short by injury. Coming back from an 0-16 season to make the NFL playoffs after over a decade.
It all started at Minnesota in Week 3. Trailing by three touchdowns at halftime, Stafford found Calvin Johnson in the end zone twice in regulation, and then off his back foot for a bomb in overtime to set Jason Hanson up for the game winning field goal for a 26-23 triumph. With 378 yards and 2 TDs on the day, the Lions were off to their first 3-0 start since 1980.