Stafford's Teammates Not Surprised by His Toughness

Posted Nov 22, 2009

Matthew Stafford's heroics at the end of Sunday's 38-37 victory against Cleveland didn't surprise the rookie quarterback's teammates.

They weren't shocked that he scrambled around long enough to get a ball to Calvin Johnson in the end zone as time expired. The Browns' Hank Poteat was called for interference and Detroit got the ball at the one.

"I don't think it surprised anybody," said left tackle Jeff Backus. "He's shown the ability since the summer to extend plays. He'll run around and try to make something happen."

They weren't stunned, either, when Stafford in obvious pain after taking a crushing hit from Cleveland's C.J.Mosley on the pass to Johnson, came back and threw a touchdown pass to fellow rookie Brandon Pettigrew.

"He's shown toughness all year," Backus said. "He was hurt but he put it aside for one play and won the game."

While Stafford was being examined by the Lions' doctors, Daunte Culpepper came into the huddle. Cleveland called a timeout and by the time play resumed, Stafford was back on the field.

"I heard timeout over the loudspeaker and knew that was probably my only chance to get back in," Stafford said. "It was my left shoulder and I don't really need it to throw."

He said he had to plead his case with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

"I just went up to (Linehan) and said, 'I can throw,'" Stafford said. "I got out of the way of all the doctors. Once one of them helped me up, they weren't going to stop me."

Stafford's determination bore out what center Dominic Raiola has been telling folks right along.

"He was in some kind of pain," said Raiola, who has had Stafford's back all season when he's been criticized for some rookie mistakes. "I went to lift him up and said, 'we've got a PI (pass interference).' He sounded like when somebody sucker punches you in the stomach.

"For him to get up and come back in, just shows the kind of competitor that he is. That's why he got picked where he got picked (first overall in last spring's NFL Draft) and why he's the guy on this team."

Stafford admitted that his shoulder was hurting.

"I was in some good pain, but the play goes on," he said. "It didn't feel good, but I didn't care. It was one play. I knew I didn't have to play too much. Just one snap and try to throw the TD."

When all the statistics had been compiled, Stafford had the finest day ever by a Lions' rookie quarterback. He completed 26 of 43 passes for 422 yards and five touchdowns.

"He's got many more of those to come in his career," said linebacker Larry Foote, who watched Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger develop into one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. "I just hope I'm around to see some more of them."

Foote, who makes sure that no rookie is going to get full of himself, couldn't help getting a dig at Stafford.

"If I got 80 million, I'd be tough, too," Foote said with a laugh, then turned serious again. "He's a smooth guy."

It was also a coming-out day for Pettigrew, the tight end from Oklahoma State, who was drafted later in the first round. Pettigrew had six catches for 72 yards.

"He had a couple drops last week, but today every time I looked up he was breaking tackles," Foote said. "That was not an easy catch in the end zone, either."

Pettigrew said that the pass play that produced the winning touchdown was just installed this week, but that the Lions had practiced it every day.

He said one thing went through his mind when his number was called with the game on the line.

"You'd better make that play or people will be looking at you sideways," Pettigrew said.

He was also impressed with Stafford's gutsy play.

"It makes it that much bigger," Pettigrew said. "It shows how much heart he has. He's the guy. He's hurt but he's gonna step up and get it done. That's the kind of guy he is."

At least one of the Browns wasn't surprised that Stafford came back to throw the winning touchdown pass.

"Not at all," said wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who was on the receiving end of many of Stafford's passes when they were teammates at Georgia. "I've seen him do it time and time again. With a guy like him, you can never count him out."

Will Stafford be able to bounce back in time for the Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay? That's anybody's guess.

"That's a great question," Stafford said with a laugh.

You can bet that if there's any way the rookie can be out there, he will. He proved that on Sunday.