He wasn’t perfect and his teammates made some mistakes that could have been critical, but former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford still led the Rams to the NFC title game on Sunday.
Six days after winning his first career playoff game, former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford faced a bigger challenge in the NFC Divisional Round on the road against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And some quarterback named Tom Brady.
The Rams won the regular season matchup (at home) against Tampa Bay back in Week 3, as Stafford threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns while completing 71 percent of his passes. But the playoffs are a different animal.
Stafford was up the task though, going 9-for-12 for 176 yards on Los Angeles’ first three drives as the Rams took a 17-3 lead. They held a 20-3 lead at halftime. Stafford scored a one-yard rushing touchdown to give the Rams a 27-3 lead a little more than halfway through the third quarter. But Brady can’t be counted out, and we learned it again on Sunday.
Rams’ teammates almost failed Matthew Stafford in second half
Rams’ running back Cam Akers fumbled late in the first half, when at least a 23-3 lead felt like it was in the bank. Akers fumbled again in the fourth quarter, setting up the Buccaneers with another opportunity when they needed it.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had another huge game, including two key catches totaling 64 yards on the game-winning drive. But he also had a third quarter fumble that started to turn the momentum in the game. Center Brian Allen, due to the crowd noise as much as anything, sent a shotgun snap over Stafford’s head to squash the Rams’ momentum right after the defense forced a turnover. Based on his time with the Lions, teammates making mistakes at inopportune times surely felt like deja vu for Stafford.
Through all of that Stafford made a couple big-time throws in leading a game-winning drive, as he did so often as the Lions’ quarterback (with lower stakes much of the time).
In a season seen as one that would really define (or re-define) the narrative of Stafford’s career as he landed on a new team, he had a defining moment on Sunday–and rose to it. Next up is the NFC Championship Game, as the Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers.