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Bleacher Report – Vikings

How good is Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford?

By Matthew Coller

It’s surprising that Matthew Stafford isn’t a more hotly debated quarterback.

The former No. 1 overall pick of the Detroit Lions has incredible arm strength and a gun-slinger mentality that fans gravitate toward. But he needed an Alex Smith-style offense to have a career resurgence.

Stafford hit a rough patch following his terrific 2011 season in which he threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. In 2012 and 2013, he combined to win 11 of 32 games while throwing 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions, good for a mediocre 81.9 rating.

His career got back on track when Jim Bob Cooter switched to a quick passing offense. Pre Snap Reads author Cian Fahey had this note about Detroit’s switch to dink-and-dunk:

“52.43 percent of Stafford’s yards last season came after the catch, third-most in the league.
More significantly, 23.39 percent of Stafford’s passes didn’t cross the line of scrimmage. Only Alex Smith bested him in that category.”

When compared to Vikings’ quarterback Sam Bradford, it’s surprising to see Stafford comes out with very similar numbers since the change in Detroit’s offensive philosophy:

Since the beginning of the 2014 season:

Category Matthew Stafford Sam Bradford
W-L 29-22 15-15
Rating 92.4 94.6
ANY/A 6.4 6.3
Yards/Game 265.2 264.9
TD:INT ratio 85-36 42-19

You might be surprised to find out that Bradford has been much more effective than Stafford at throwing the ball downfield.

On passes that qualify as “deep throws” by NFL official play-by-play, Bradford ranks only behind Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees in completion percentage (with more than 100 deep throws). At 49.1%, Bradford is well ahead of Stafford’s 37.6% completion percentage.

Fahey’s tracking statistics in his annual Pre Snap Reads book also discovered something interesting about Stafford’s gunslinging: He throws a lot of interceptions and interceptable passes for a largely short-pass offense.

Stafford threw the ninth most passes that gave the defense a chance for an INT, while Bradford tossed the 28th most.

Where the two quarterbacks divert – and the reason ESPN’s poll of front office executives rated Stafford the eighth best QB and Bradford 23rd – is in big situations. Stafford has been one of the league’s best quarterbacks when he’s needed to be.

We often think of the “Game-Winning Drives” stat as a small sample size tidbit more than a repeatable skill, but in Stafford’s case, he’s led the league twice and has the seventh most among active quarterbacks – with only the likes of Brady, Brees, Eli (!), Big Ben, Palmer and Ryan ahead of him.

Since 2014, Stafford has been very good on third downs. He averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, which is just ahead of Cam Newton and just behind Russell Wilson. It isn’t quite Roethlisberger and Brady, who both averaged 8.6 YPA on third down, but it’s far ahead of Bradford’s 5.8 YPA.

ESPN’s QBR statistic, which takes into account game situations, ranked Stafford the eighth best QB last year and Bradford 17th.

Of course, the Lions’ QB is also more mobile. He’s cleared 100 yards rushing five times in his career, including adding 207 yards on the ground last season.

“He has improved from the time I got here, much improved,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He has an outstanding arm and throws the ball. He is very confident in what they do offensively and has a good feel for that. He is running a lot of no huddle stuff and making communications and checks. Maybe the biggest difference – he’s always been able to throw the ball and he’s probably more accurate now – but the biggest thing that I see is he takes off and extends plays with his legs.”

Stafford had two strong performances against the Vikings last season in clutch situations. He led a game-tying and game-winning drive at US Bank Stadium, then another game-tying drive on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit.

So the Vikings have learned that even if they contain Stafford or force some mistakes throughout a game, he can be at his most dangerous in big situations.

The post How good is Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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