Matthew Stafford’s five best moments with the Lions

Detroit News

Nolan Bianchi| The Detroit News

Longtime Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is headed to Hollywood, which is an appropriate destination given the movie-like storylines that often followed him in his career.

From last-second comebacks to incredible feats under dire physical circumstances, the 12-year veteran did it all in Detroit — besides grab that brass ring.

We’ll find out soon if Stafford can change the narrative in Los Angeles and finally write the happy ending that evaded him in the Motor City, but for now, we rewind the tape and look at Stafford’s five best moments in a Lions uniform.

5. Cuttin’ loose on Monday night

The Lions have their fair share of highs and lows on Monday Night Football over the last decade.

One of the highs came in Week 1 of the 2014 season.

Detroit had a disappointing close to its season in 2013, with one of the final nails in the coffin coming by way of the New York Giants in Week 16.

Those same Giants came to Detroit for the Monday night season-opener in 2014, and with the Lions still searching for a path to consistent contendership, this was, by all accounts at the time, a big matchup to start the season.

And boy, did Stafford and the Lions deliver. He threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 22-for-32 passing, finishing with a 125.3 QBR as Detroit started an 11-5 season with the emphatic 35-14 win.

4. The entire 2016 season

With eight fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016, it’s hard to isolate any one as being the best, but there was also too much activity to leave the season out of here entirely.

It started with a Week 1 win in Indianapolis, as Stafford and the Lions took over with 37 seconds remaining, trailing 35-34, and left with a 39-35 win, thanks to a last-second field goal by Matt Prater.

The Lions then lost three straight, as it looked like this would be yet another lost season in Detroit’s history.

But, then they made a fourth-quarter comeback in Week 5 vs. Philadelphia. And, again in Week 6 vs. Los Angeles. And, again in Week 7 vs. Washington.

That was just the first of two instances in which they rattled off three straight fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016, and while the Lions got smushed by Seattle in a wild-card game, there are plenty of moments to remember from this season: Golden Tate’s overtime walkoff in Minnesota, Darius Slay’s interception against the Vikings on Thanksgiving, and, of course, a meme that’d last a lifetime.

3. Leading the revival

2011 was the great football resurgence in Detroit. With a franchise quarterback now in place, a Hall-of-Fame wideout, and a solid defense to boot, the Lions started 5-0 while chasing its first playoff appearance since 1999.

Stafford led the Lions to road wins at Minnesota (overtime) and Dallas before coming back to Detroit for the team’s first Monday Night Football matchup since 2001, squaring off against the Chicago Bears.

In the second quarter of a scoreless game, Stafford threw deep for Calvin Johnson in double coverage for a 73-yard score that nearly blew the roof off of Ford Field and propelled the Lions to a 5-0 start, their best start since 1956.

Stafford that season would become just the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards. Despite bowing out in the wild-card round vs. New Orleans, this season was officially the start of the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit.

2. Mic’d up vs. Dallas

These last two moments got a little bit of help from NFL Films, which had Stafford mic’d up during the game, but nevertheless, they are his two greatest moments in a Lions uniform — and the reason NFL Films named him No. 1 on their list of ‘Top 10 Mic’d Up Guys of All Time’.

First up: It’s Week 8 in 2013, and the Lions are looking to advance to 5-3 before the bye while hosting a Dallas Cowboys squad that’s also 4-3.

A few days earlier, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant provided a soundbite about Calvin Johnson that, when taken out of context like it was, helped set the table for one of the Lions’ most electric and vengeful victories of the last 20 years: “I can do whatever he can do.”

Johnson wound up finishing the day with 329 yards receiving — but that lede got buried by the time this thing was done.

Trailing by 6 with 1:02 left and no timeouts, Stafford found Kris Durham in the turkey hole for a pickup of 40. He hit Johnson on the next play, getting Detroit to the 1. The clock continued to run, as Stafford tried to urge his guys to the line.

You guys know the line: ‘Hey! Clock it! Clock it! Clocooooahohohoaeee! Cloahhoeoeoeoeo!’ (or something like that).

Stafford gets his guys set up, takes the snap, and dives over an unsuspecting Cowboys defensive line to give Detroit a victory.

1. Mic’d up vs. Cleveland

This last moment is true Hollywood-script type stuff. Naturally, NFL Films had the mic on him for this one, too.

With one win under his belt in the NFL, Stafford led a drive that got Detroit to the 32 of Cleveland with 0:08 to go, down 6. He took the snap, rolled left, evaded pressure, rolled right, stepped up, and let one fly. It was intercepted in the end zone, but there was a flag on the play for pass interference. The Lions would have another shot at the 1, an untimed down.

Stafford, meanwhile, laid lifeless on the ground. He took a massive hit after letting the ball go, landing hard on his left shoulder. His groans of pain were amplified by the NFL Films mics, making what would come next all the more impressive.

Daunte Culpepper came in for the final play at quarterback. Cleveland called a timeout. Stafford, from his back, with several training staff members around him: “Hey, that’s a timeout, I can play, right?”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

Stafford gets up anyway: “Get the … Help me up. I can throw the ball if you need me to throw the ball.”

Stafford completed the 1-yard throw to Brandon Pettigrew, and the Lions walked off with a victory thanks to the extra point from Jason Hanson.

The NFL Films clip has been spread around the internet so many times, it’s tough to remember what the actual broadcast footage looks like.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

 

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