BALTIMORE -- A quarterback’s value can be defined by statistics – passing yards, touchdowns, efficiency rating, games won – and also by words.
Talking a good game isn’t enough. Nothing rattles off a team’s lockers with more dissonant futility than empty rhetoric. There has been plenty of that over the years in Detroit.
Performance is what counts, but winning quarterbacks speak a language that shows they are comfortable in a crucial leadership role.
Stafford also is comfortable carrying the weight of a team leader and focal point of a franchise.
That is the case even in games such as Friday night’s road exhibition contest against the Ravens. The game is televised nationally on the FOX network.
All eyes are on the quarterback. There is never a letup.
“Understanding the league and where it is now, as a quarterback you have to expect to play well to win,” Stafford said after a practice leading up to Friday night’s game.
“There’s not a whole lot of teams that are really successful when their quarterback is playing at a low level.
“So, you’ve got to expect and put pressure on yourself to play at a high level -- to give yourself and your team a chance to win.
“That’s how I approach it.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is defined more by winning than by stats. Flacco has started every game since the Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2008.
The Ravens have made the playoffs all four years under Flacco, and they’ve won a first-round game every year. A lot of the NFL’s great contemporary quarterbacks haven’t done that.
The Ravens are built on power – defense and running game – but Flacco holds up his end.
The Ravens nearly made it to the Super Bowl last season. They lost to the Patriots, 23-20, in the AFC Championship. A dropped pass in the end zone with 22 seconds left kept them from winning. Moments later, kicker Bill Cundiff hooked a potential game-tying field goal wide from 32 yards.
Flacco’s four-year stats line – 80 TD passes, 46 interceptions – is solid but not spectacular. He has yet to make a Pro Bowl. But he has shown that he can lead a team that plays to his strength.
The Lions’ strength is the passing game and defensive line. There are playmakers in both areas.
Baltimore should give the Lions a tougher test than they faced in last week’s 19-17 loss to the Browns at Ford Field.
The No. 1 offense did not score last week in the three possessions with Stafford at quarterback. It needs to take advantage of opportunities against the Ravens.
One threat ended when Stafford had a pass intercepted on a play when he and tight end
As they prepare for the regular season, the offense should be the least of the Lions’ worries, even with the uncertainty at running back.
But nothing is taken for granted. Every minute detail gets polished and refined in practice to get the offense in the right rhythm.
“It’s tempo in and out of the huddle, making sure we get play calls in and quick – which (offensive coordinator Scott Linehan) does an awesome job of,” Stafford said.
“There are a lot of things that contribute to that rhythm. One of them is having successful plays on top of another, whether it’s run or pass. Moving the ball forward helps your rhythm.
“This last week was our three or four best practices in a row. I’m happy where we are, moving in the right direction.”