LIONS INSIDER

Stafford quietly having one of the best seasons in franchise history

Posted Dec 7, 2011

Something that’s been lost in all the recent hoopla surrounding Ndamukong Suh and the Lions thinking penalty flags are collectable items, is the season quarterback Matthew Stafford is having.

After missing 19 games because of injury in his first two seasons, Stafford’s right arm is the biggest reason the Lions are sitting at 7-5.

Stafford is in the midst of one of the finest seasons for a quarterback in Lions history and its no coincidence the team is also in the NFC  playoff hunt.

Stafford ranks near the top of the NFL in every major statistical passing category.

“He’s dealt with a lot of situations this year,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz of his quarterback. “He’s dealt with a couple injuries that he’s played through. He’s dealt with eight of our 12 games being against division leaders or legitimate playoff contenders. He’s had a tough draw.

“We’ve had to come from behind and we’ve also had some games where we needed him to get hot on offense and take it over.  He’s been able to do that.”

Stafford ranks fifth in the league in yards (3,327), fourth in touchdowns (27), eighth in completion percentage (63.0), ninth in rating (91.3) and has completed the second-most passes of 40-plus yards (11).

“This is his third year but if you look at the number of starts he’s had he’s still relatively young in his career; but he’s playing at a very, very high level,” said Lions back-up quarterback Shaun Hill.

Stafford has also done it playing through ankle and finger injuries.

“I don’t think people truly understand how tough it is to play with a broken index finger,” Hill said. “There’s obviously no question he’s a tough guy.”

Stafford needs to average 253 yards over the next four games to break Scott Mitchell’s club record of 4,338 passing yards in a season set in 1995.

Stafford is five touchdowns away from Mitchell’s record of 32 for a season and will likely break the record for completions percentage (63.28) in a season set by Jon Kitna in 2007.

“Through the first 12 (games) he’s on a good path,” Schwartz said. “But we still have four games to go.”

It’s those last four games that will ultimatly define Stafford’s season, though.

Statistics are great and team records last forever, but the elite quarterbacks in the NFL (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning) take their teams to the playoffs and they've all won championships.

I suspect something would be missing for Stafford if he broke all those records but didn’t lead the Lions into the playoffs.