Don’t adjust your set: Stafford is that good

by | Sep 19, 2011 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

Get me some Visine. My eyes must be going. I thought I just saw 48-3 on the scoreboard – and the Lions were winning.

Really? That just happened?

Well, let me rub my … Yep. It’s still there. Take a picture, nice people of Detroit. Because this is what a good football team looks like.

It looks like Matthew Stafford, helmet off, cap backward, watching the fourth quarter because – after four passing touchdowns and 294 yards – his work is done.

It looks like cornerback Eric Wright, poking a fumble free, stealing an interception, rolling with a defense that refused to surrender a TD all day.

It looks like Kyle Vanden Bosch, ever churning, coming back on a rush and forcing a quarterback strip.

It looks like Jahvid Best, being versatile, taking a handoff and leaping for one touchdown, catching a dump pass and racing in for another.

It looks like this: a favored team, the Lions, playing a weaker team, the Chiefs, and doing what it is supposed to do: whip ’em.

Whip ’em good.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Wright admitted, after the six-turnover, biggest-margin-of-victory-ever Detroit win, “where it’s happening – and it’s pretty much expected to be that way?”

You haven’t seen anything like it, Eric?

Get in line.

Focus on four plays

There are so many bright corners you could feature in this lopsided win – the defensive opportunism, the diversity of receivers, the mid-game adjustments. You could even note that it cemented Jason Hanson as the longest-tenured NFL player with any one team ever – the Lions – and he was actually smiling about it!

But here’s what I zero in on: four passes. All bullets. All thrown by Stafford. Because they had as much to do with Sunday’s win – and the legitimately bright future of these Lions – as anything.

First pass. First quarter. Stafford drops, spots Calvin Johnson streaking to his right, threads the ball between two defenders, gets Calvin to turn back just enough – touchdown.

That’s a darn hard pass to throw. You release a split-second earlier or later, it goes nowhere good. Thrown perfectly, it is unstoppable. And it was.

Second pass. Second quarter. Second-and-1. Stafford drops and waits, then rockets a pass to tight end Tony Scheffler – again just past the reach of one defender and just inside another. Scheffler keeps moving, loses the last defender with a jump-back and goes into the end zone.

“It was just the perfect ball,” Scheffler said after the game. “It had so much velocity on it, I was kind of stung for a second when I caught it.”

One of the elite quarterbacks?

Third pass. A few minutes later. It’s third-and-24. Third-and-24? Hello? Isn’t that surrender time? Something safe? A handoff? Instead, Stafford drops and whips a ball down the middle, makes it look like he’s throwing to second base, and, again between defenders, puts it smack in the hands of his target, Titus Young, who snags it in stride for a 43-yard gain.

Young is a rookie. That was the third catch of his career. Yet Stafford had no problem going to him on third-and-24? And, more incredibly, no problem in converting it?

When was the last time a Lions quarterback oozed that kind of confidence?

Fourth pass. A fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The Lions just tried a fade pass to Johnson. Broken up. This time they’ll … what? Hand it off?

Nope. Stafford goes right back to Johnson, who fast curls into the end zone and catches a laser throw for a touchdown that leaves defenders shaking their heads.

It takes a special confidence to try that on fourth-and-goal at the 1, a special moxie to go right back to that receiver, and a special arm to make that and every one of the throws detailed here

“It separates the best from the guys that play a long time but don’t go to Pro Bowls or Super Bowls,” Scheffler said. “(Stafford) is just that good.”

And on this day, so was the franchise. To his credit, Stafford didn’t gloat. He simply called it a game that moves the Lions “from 1-0 to 2-0.”

But we know better. We’ve seen 2-0 before. We haven’t seen this. 48-3? Grab some Visine. Get the red out. This team could finally be in the black.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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