Coordinator Cut-Up: Matthew Stafford breaking attempts record wasn't the plan

Posted Dec 27, 2012

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford sits on the verge of breaking Drew Bledsoe's NFL record of 691 pass attempts in a season. Says Scott Linehan, that many pass attempts wasn't part of the plan this preseason.

When Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan scripted this season before it began, he didn't think quarterback Matthew Stafford would be on the verge of breaking the all-time record for attempts in a season.

Stafford has thrown 685 passes, and will almost certainly break Drew Bledsoe's NFL record of 691 Sunday vs. the Bears.

Stafford said after last week's loss to the Falcons that his high number of attempts was a product of the Lions' 4-11 record and the fact that they've been behind in games in the fourth quarter.

"The attempts is a little bit of a product of being behind in some games late, which is obviously not where we want to be," he said.

Stafford is right. He threw more passes in the first, second and third quarters last year (492) than he has this year (429). When the Detroit Lions were on their way to winning 10 games a season ago, Stafford threw 168 passes in the fourth quarter. Stafford has thrown 244 passes in the fourth quarter this season.

"You throw as much as you need to win but we've been in games, especially in the second half of the season, where we've been behind and thrown more," Linehan said.

"Generally speaking you don't want to have 50 attempts in a game unless that's your game plan - ahead, behind or not. Because if you do usually you're trying to catch up. Probably in the second half of the season."

Matthew Stafford has attempted more than 50 passes in four games this season and more than 40 passes 12 times.

"We were ahead in a number of them but we had a number of games where we had multiple possessions of two-minute drives (where) we threw the ball quite a bit, so I think those numbers are up there a little bit because of that," Linehan said.

The Lions' 4.2 average per rush attempt is the highest it's been since Scott Linehan arrived in 2009, but the team has only three 'explosive' runs of 20-plus yards.

The combination of being behind in games and not being able to rely on the run game to get explosive plays is part of the reason Stafford stands at the doorstep of Bledsoe's record.

Stafford throwing to receiver Calvin Johnson is the best weapon the Lions have had all season (Johnson breaking Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record is testament to that) and they've milked it for all it's worth.

One of the keys for next season, though, is getting healthier and more productive at the receiver and running back positions so Stafford and Johnson don't have to do it all.