Matthew Stafford glad he’s done facing Detroit Lions: ‘Am I happy it’s over with? Yeah.’

Detroit Free Press

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — After spending a week trying to dodge questions and all the unwanted attention that came with facing his longtime former team, Matthew Stafford came clean on Sunday.

“Am I happy it’s over with? Yeah,” the Los Angeles Rams quarterback admitted after a 28-19 victory over the Detroit Lions. “I’ve got a lot of great friends, got a lot of people that I care about that are on that team or from that city and just glad to have this one over with and put the storylines away and just go out and play football the rest of the year.”

Stafford had an exceptional game, rallying his team to a fourth-quarter comeback — the 33rd of his career — and was 28-for-41 for 334 yards and three touchdowns.

But before all of that happened, Stafford drove to SoFi Stadium and caught a glimpse of the numerous Lions fans making their way to the game. Several wore his old Lions jersey, and Stafford said he was humbled to see that the attachment remained.

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“I thought to myself that was pretty cool,” he said. “I really appreciate it. I’ve said it a bunch of times, and I truly mean it. I loved my time there, I loved all the people there that treated me, my family, my wife with a ton of respect and a ton of grace for a long time. It was cool to see that. Once the ball was snapped, it was football time, and I was ready to go play.”

You could sense that emotion, as much as Stafford tried to tamp it down for reporters earlier in the week, when he spoke with and embraced Elton Moore, the Lions’ head of security, after the game. Before the game, Stafford’s wife, Kelly, also gave Moore a long hug and she spoke with owner Sheila Ford Hamp for about 10 minutes on the sidelines.

When Stafford was on the field, he made it all work, even though he didn’t get the ball until midway through the first quarter with the Rams down, 10-0.

“And to be able to do that in a win against a former team a lot of great relationships,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, “I know he has tremendous respect for that organization, the way he was treated there. And I think they feel the same about him. I was really happy for him to get the win.”

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I’m not telling … OK, I’m telling

Stafford was able to say a very quick hello to Hamp at the end of the pregame warmups. But it wasn’t until the end of the game that the other reunion — between McVay and Lions quarterback Jared Goff — occurred.

Earlier in the week, McVay played down the reunion with the quarterback he traded. He unsuccessfuly tried to shoot down a question about the exchange between himself and Goff.

“No, I’m not going to get into — no, I mean, it’s — as I said, ‘Great job. I’ll touch base with you a little bit later on,’ ” McVay said. “But that was — so I guess I did just share with you what I said.”

Trick or treat

The Lions played with the wild abandon of a winless team and pulled several tricks out of their hat: Namely, two fake punts they converted for first downs and an onside kick.

“Yeah, we had them ready to go,” coach Dan Campbell said. “We felt like the time was right. (Special teams coordinator) Dave Fipp did a hell of a job. We talked about it all week and those guys executed the plan perfectly all week.

“A lot of faith in those guys and especially in (Lions safety C.J. Moore), (punter Jack) Fox throwing it, (cornerback Bobby Price), (kicker Austin Seibert) on the kick, (safety Tracy Walker) got the ball, (linebacker Josh Woods) and (safety Jalen Elliott). They executed all week. It just gives you a ton of faith. We had a feel the look could be there, and so we wanted to give it a go.”

After the Lions went up 7-0, Seibert kicked onside and Tracy Walker recovered at the Detroit 47. On the ensuing drive, Fox threw a short pass to Price on fourth-and-7 at the 50 that went for 17 yards. That drive resulted in a field goal for a 10-0 lead.

In the third quarter, the Lions trailed, 17-16, and faced fourth-and-8 from their 35 when they direct-snapped to Moore, who ran 28 yards to the L.A. 37. But the Lions couldn’t convert on fourth-and-1 from the L.A. 18 when D’Andre Swift was stopped for no gain on a run up the middle.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said in his entire football life, he had never been part of a game with three special-teams trick plays, and that the Lions played like a dangerous team with nothing to lose.

“That’s what it seemed like, yeah,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a game where it’s been three special-teams fakes or kind of nuances in the game, something that’s not normal. I think it’s the first time in my whole football career, since I was a little kid.

“So definitely different. But hey, whatever it takes to win. They thought that that could be an edge. And for a little bit it was. Then we just overcame that.”

Passing Elway

Stafford entered the game with 298 career passing touchdowns, two shy of his boyhood hero, John Elway. His third touchdown pass overtook Elway for 12th place all time.

“It means a little bit,” Stafford said. “I grew up watching John and I was a huge fan. I wore No. 7 in high school and college because of John. And I was a huge fan of the way he played the game, the way he threw the ball, all of that. It’s pretty cool.

“I’m sure I’ll appreciate it probably more when I’m done playing. But along the way, it’s nice to get that done with a win. If we had not won the game, I would probably be feeling a little bit different about it. But being able to win the game and do something like that, it’s pretty special.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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