The Detroit Lions led the NFC North for most of last season, and, for most of last season, their quarterback was an MVP candidate.
That would be Matthew Stafford, who set a league record in 2016 for most fourth-quarter comeback victories in one year. He had eight, putting him at 25 for his career, and if that seems like a lot it’s because it is. No one has more since Stafford broke into the NFL in 2009.
So, it’s safe to say that as Matt Stafford goes, so go the Lions. In fact, Detroit was 9-4 a year ago before he suffered a hand injury. Then the Lions lost their last three, opening the door for Green Bay to win another division championship, and connect the dots, people.
The guy doesn’t get a lot of attention outside Detroit, and maybe that should change. After all, he reached 30,000 yards passing faster than any quarterback in league history, put the Lions in the playoffs two of the past three years and has the endorsement of coach Jim Caldwell, who coached Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco in Super Bowls.
“Even prior to my coming (to Detroit), you could certainly see the way in which he’s played year after year after year,” Caldwell said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “He’s been pretty consistent in terms of generating yardage for his team.
“When we got here we found out some other things about him that you just didn’t see on film: His toughness, his intelligence, his desire. And all of those things, I think, without question rub off on his teammates.
“He’s also unflappable in very, very tight situations. And he’s improving. That’s the other thing I think you find with guys at that position in this league: When they get to around their fifth, sixth, seventh year, there’s still a climb, there’s still an ascension. You can see the direction in which they’re going.
“Stats don’t always tell the story, but I think when you couple that with wins it does. And Matthew certainly is on the rise.”
He’s right about that. Stafford is 27-21 the past three years, throwing for 4,200 yards or more in each season and leading the Lions to 15 fourth-quarter comeback wins during that period, including the league record a year ago.
“I’ve been a part of two teams that, actually, set both records, ” said Caldwell. “We did it in Indy in 2009 — came from behind and set an NFL record a number of times coming from behind in the fourth quarter — and we broke that record here. And that just tells you he’s one of those guys that does not shrink when the moment gets big.
“He’s never deterred. He has good focus and concentration. And he’s a winner. So we just anticipate those kinds of things always keeping us in a ballgame.”