Stafford, Lions Looking Forward to Offseason Progression

Posted Feb 8, 2010

With the 2009 season officially in the books, all 32 NFL teams can look toward next season.

As the Detroit Lions work on free agency and the draft, the hope is that the team will continue to grow so the final two-thirds of their match-up with the Cleveland Browns will become more of what Lions fans see on a weekly basis.

In that game, Detroit was down 24-3 late in the first quarter before rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford was a catalyst for an exciting comeback that drew the attention of the league.

“That was obviously a special comeback,” said Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. “You don’t see a lot of those. I haven’t seen a lot of those, especially in the NFL. That’s a very rare type of a game.”

In that game, Stafford threw five touchdown passes in an exciting comeback that transcended the fact that it was just the second win of the season.

His final touchdown pass – in the last play of the game – both won the game and came after he suffered a painful shoulder injury on the previous play. Even though he was on the ground in pain, Stafford got up and went back in for that final play and found tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the back of the endzone for the win.

“(Getting up) was just instinct, I guess,” said Stafford to NFL Network last week. “I heard over the loudspeaker that (Coach Mangini) had called a timeout and I knew it was my only chance to get back in the game. I was going to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. I said, ‘I’m going to go out there to try and make a play.’”

That game gave Lions fans what was probably their first true glimpse into the kind of player Stafford is. The toughness and grit he showed on that final play became a topic of conversation and a source of excitement regarding the rookie quarterback.

Beyond what it did for the fans is what that performance showed Stafford’s teammates. The quarterback is such an important source of leadership and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the team says a lot.

“Everything was stacked up against us from an early part of the game,” said Linehan. “To be able to stick in there and battle back and win that game the way we did provides that belief factor you see the teams that are winning consistently have.

“No matter what the situation is those teams don’t panic and keep playing. I thought Matthew’s youthful exuberance and approach showed that’s all it takes.”

Stafford enjoyed the game as well.

“It was awesome. It was a shootout,” he said. “Brady Quinn, I think, had four touchdowns – I think we combined for almost 1,000 yards passing, whatever it was. We were going crazy and it was a ton of fun. You love to play in shootouts. Obviously not every week, but it’s fun to get in them once in awhile.”

As for Stafford’s injuries, he says he’s doing fine. He’s been rehabbing his shoulder – which did not require surgery – to strengthen the capsule and his knee is also feeling good.

He will be in Allen Park this week to check in with the team doctors and believes he will get good feedback.

His hope is to be cleared for full participation come March 15 when the offseason conditioning program begins.

“Hopefully we’ll hit big again on the draft this year and get some guys that can really step in and play for us early,” said Stafford.

“I’m excited that we have the same head coach and both coordinators. It (will give) us a chance to grow in the system and hopefully we’ll play some better ball.”