Skip to main content

FOUR DOWNS: Stafford's second half


Jim Caldwell has been around some pretty good quarterbacks in his day, but he said after Sunday's 24-20 win in Chicago that he's never been around a quarterback that played as well over a two-month stretch than Matthew Stafford just did.

Over the final eight games of the season, Stafford threw 19 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. His 110.7 passer rating over that span is the highest in franchise history over an eight-game stretch.

How hot has Stafford been? He recorded three consecutive games with a passer rating of over 115.0 to finish the season.

Stafford credited Jim Bob Cooter, and the changes he's made to the offense since taking over as offensive coordinator Week 8, with a lot of his success the second half of the season.

"Jim Bob and I see the game the same way," Stafford said after completing 28 of 39 passes (72 percent) for 298 yards with three more touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 119.4 in a 24-20 win over Chicago.

"It's fun when you're playing this way and have a good thing going with your coach. It's a lot of fun."

Stafford made the point that Cooter hasn't even installed all of his offense yet and they've been playing the second half of the season in a hybrid system.

He believes this offense will only get better under the continued guidance of Cooter and Caldwell. Stafford wants both coaches back in 2016.

"He's (Caldwell) done a heck of a job the second half of the season pulling everyone together," Stafford said. "His message hadn't changed. We just needed to play better football."

Stafford said he'd "absolutely, no question" give his opinion on the future of Caldwell and Co. to the higher ups if asked.

What if he's not asked?

"I'll try," he said of still offering his opinion that Caldwell and Cooter should stay.


Caldwell said Calvin Johnson's 36-yard third quarter touchdown grab was vintage Calvin in that he saw the ball out in front of him and lay out to go get it.

Johnson had a big day Sunday with 10 catches for 137 yards and that touchdown, and finished the season with 88 receptions for 1,214 yards and nine scores.

It's been well-documented that I'm a proponent of Johnson returning in 2016, despite his $24 million cap number.

But does Johnson think he'll be back?

He kept the ball after his touchdown Sunday and shared an emotional moment following the game with Stafford as they both walked off the field.

Stafford declined to disclose what he said to Johnson in that moment.

As for Johnson, he said his future is out of his control and he's just going to enjoy the downtime the offseason provides.

"Oh man, you never know," Johnson said when asked about Sunday potentially being his last game as a Lion.

"If it is though, you want to go out like that with wins. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the playoffs or anything like that, but to have a great team effort, not just this game, but this whole second half of the season, it's good."

Johnson was then asked how close he thinks this team is to being a championship contender.

"We're close," he said.

Are the Lions closer with or without Johnson? The easy answer is they're a better football team with him.


In a team meeting Saturday night before the game, Caldwell told his defense that it would take three turnovers to beat the Bears on their home field the following day.

It turns out Caldwell was right. The Lions needed all three interceptions of Jay Cutler to escape with a four-point victory.

"We knew if we got some pressure on him and things like that we could have some opportunities to make plays," said safety Glover Quin, whose interception of Cutler with under two minutes to play helped seal the win for the Lions.

Cornerback Nevin Lawson made a terrific play to deflect a first-quarter Cutler pass to teammate James Ihedigbo in the end zone for the first interception.

The Lions' pass rush – particularly Ziggy Ansah getting his hands on Cutler – played a big role, too.

Ansah finished with three quarterback hits and a sack. Two of those hits helped linebacker Tahir Whitehead and Quin pick up the other two interceptions in the game, as the Lions won the turnover battle, 3-0.


It has been frequently reported how much owner Martha Firestone Ford and her family like Caldwell.

According to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday morning, Lions' ownership supports Caldwell and plans to retain him, citing sources, but are expected to leave the final decision to the permanent general manager hired after the season.

Lions team president Rod Wood reiterated after the game that the general manager would have the final say on the coach and also said the GM search would begin in earnest Monday with the team reaching out to candidates.

Caldwell has been on the hot seat since the team started 0-5 and stumbled it's way to a 1-7 start at the midway point of the season. The start cost president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew their jobs.

They've rallied during the second half, however, and finished 7-9 in the second half after Sunday's win.

"I worry about the things I can control," Caldwell said after the game. "That's out of my control and that'll take care of itself."

Caldwell, who has an 18-14 record after two seasons in Detroit, is the only Lions coach during the Super Bowl era with a winning record after his first two full seasons as head coach.

"I'm working," Caldwell said when asked what the waiting process will be like for him. "I'm under contract until I'm told differently."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content