Can Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions recapture the 2019 magic?
One of the main reasons fans of the Detroit Lions held out hope that 2020 would be different was due to the play of quarterback Matthew Stafford last year. Despite missing eight games due to a back injury, Stafford looked like an MVP candidate when he was on the field in 2019.
Over the first eight games of last season, Stafford was on pace to have his best performance in the Motor City since 2011. He recorded 2,499 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and only five interceptions until he was sidelined after Week Nine.
Before the injury, Stafford led Detroit to early victories over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and went toe-to-toe with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, losing on a last-second score. Detroit was an optimistic 2-1-1 before their Week Five bye.
Unfortunately, the Lions didn’t win a single game without Stafford under center, further proving his immense value to the team. His predicted return in 2020 was believed to be the catalyst for finally making Detroit playoff relevant once again. So far, that hasn’t been the case.
Through eight games of this season, the Lions are 3-5, again in the basement of the NFC North, and are currently on a two-game losing streak. As for Stafford, he’s thrown for 2,127 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven picks. The 32-year old has also posted a 62.6 completion percentage, his lowest in seven years.
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are coming off a tough game
The veteran passer is coming off his worst game of the season. In a 34-20 loss to their divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, Stafford threw for only 211 yards, one score, and two interceptions. He also had a season-low quarterback rating of 73.8.
It should also be noted that Stafford was unable to practice all week due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list right up until game day. And he was without his top wide receiver, Kenny Golladay, due to a hip injury. Still, Stafford has not looked like the same passer we saw last year.
Ben Linsey of the football analytics website, Pro Football Focus, named Stafford’s poor play as one of the biggest surprises so far this season in the NFL. Here’s why …
"“Stafford’s 68.4 overall grade through nine weeks ranks 26th among 32 qualifying quarterbacks in 2020. He hasn’t been quite as aggressive as he was in 2019, generating an average depth of target that has dropped from 11.4 yards last season to 9.3 yards this year … The end result is an offense that hasn’t been as impressive as anticipated.”"
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions could quickly recapture that 2019 magic due to a favorable schedule. Their next three games are against the 2-6 Washington Football Team, the 3-6 Carolina Panthers, and the 2-6 Houston Texans. Then, Detroit will face tough back-to-back divisional battles with the 5-4 Chicago Bears and the 6-2 Green Bay Packers. Five of the Lions’ remaining eight games will be at Ford Field.