Remembering Stafford’s 2011
How close has the Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford come to accomplishing something close to Elway’s almost efforts? Several years Stafford has been really good and the team has still fallen short in helping him. Let’s take 2011, Stafford’s first full year healthy, where the team made the playoffs but lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Wildcard game.
Stafford posted a ridiculous, video-game stat-line while the team won ten games in 2011. He passed for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, while hitting 63.5% of his passes. Take a minute to let those numbers set in while you read how similar years were celebrated for other athletes, who didn’t reside in the Motor City.
Patrick Mahomes’ first year as a full-time starter, his 2018 miracle-year, was 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, with 5,097 yards, a 66% completion rate; his team only won two more games during the regular season than Stafford did in his first full season. Mahomes was named to both the Pro-Bowl and First-Team, All-Pro teams while Stafford was ignored by both for similar numbers back in 2011.
Another line about this time period for Stafford is, “He had Calvin Johnson, though.” We suppose that this argument is just a smoke screen for basic disdain of the franchise as a whole because Mahomes had Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, and Sammy Watkins as his targets. Hill had 1,479 yards and 12 scores compared to Johnson’s 1,681 yards and 16 scores in 2018 and 2011, respectively, all stats from Pro Football Reference.
If we look beyond Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions did have three other targets catch over 600 yards worth of passes, none reached 1,000 yards, but no other player garnered any individual honors from the NFL unlike Mahomes’ teammates who sent Hill, Kelce, and Anthony Sherman to at least the Pro Bowl in 2018.
We almost forgot that the Detroit Lions leading rusher was Jahvid Best with 390 yards and 2 scores. Kevin Smith has 354 yards and 4 scores. Their top three runners barely combined for 1,000 yards. In those ways, other than Calvin, he took the team pretty far with a defense ranked 23rd in the NFL in both points and yards.
To finish the 2011 year, Stafford threw for 380 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 picks, and completed 65% of his passes against the Saints. The Detroit Lions defense didn’t touch Drew Brees and were shredded for 45 points and over 600 yards of offense in that game, according to Pro Football Reference. This is one of the most under appreciated efforts by any NFL player in the league’s history.