Skip to main content

NOTEBOOK: A lot has changed since Stafford's last meeting with Cardinals

The last time Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford strapped it up against the Arizona Cardinals' defense, he threw three interceptions, had a passer rating of 50.0 and was benched in the second half for backup Dan Orlovsky.

That was back in October of 2015, and quite a bit has changed for Stafford and the Lions since.

Just a couple weeks after that performance, Jim Bob Cooter was named offensive coordinator. Stafford has flourished in Cooter's offense over the last year and a half.

Stafford is coming off arguably one of the best seasons he's had a professional in 2016. He set a new team single-season passing record for percentage of passes intercepted (1.7 percent). He led eight come-from-behind victories, and was asked to the Pro Bowl as an alternate, though he turned down the offer because of a finger injury.

He's the face of the franchise and its leader, and will be for the foreseeable future after signing a five-year extension last month.

Since that last Cardinals game, Stafford has played arguably the most consistent stretch of football in his career. Over that span, he's completed 67 percent of his passes with 50 touchdowns, just 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 99.1.

"That was a while back," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday of the benching. "He handled it like a pro. Nobody likes it when it does occur but the thing he didn't do is he didn't pout.

"He went after it the next week, played well. I'm not saying it was because of that incident, but I tell you what, you look at the numbers, he's been pretty, pretty strong for a long time now."

Stafford's been in offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's system for nearly all of those past 27 games, and his comfort level in it is extremely high. Going into his ninth season, there also isn't much Stafford hasn't seen at this point.

"I think I've seen a lot more football, played a lot more football," Stafford said of how he's improved over the last year and a half. "Put a ton of work in. Not only our team but myself and how I can help us win.

"I think those are probably the biggest areas you improve as a player along the way is experience and seeing things and seeing defenses and getting our offense in the correct play the majority if not all the time."

The Cardinals are an aggressive defense that plays a lot of man coverage on the outside. They're creative with their blitz schemes. They simply got the better of Stafford the last time these two teams met.

"I've always felt I was a pretty resilient person," Stafford said. "Came to this organization after an 0-16 and got beat up and hurt my first two years and we weren't very good, and battled through that.

"So, kind of known for a while that I'm a resilient human being. You have to be to play this position in this league. So, that was just another opportunity to prove it I guess."

This time around, Stafford and the Lions are hoping they can get the better of the Cardinals' defense.


Darren Fells will forever be grateful to the Cardinals organization for giving him an opportunity to play in the NFL after switching from professional basketball to football.

Fells spent the last three seasons in Arizona becoming one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. He signed with the Lions as a free agent this offseason. Go figure his first game with his new team is against his old team at Ford Field Sunday.

"I have nothing but respect for that program over there," Fells said Wednesday. "They helped me get to where I am today. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here today."

Fells is expected to play an important role in Detroit as a key component to Detroit's pass protection and run blocking. Don't be surprised if he catches a few passes too.

Fells says he considers a lot of his formers teammates brothers, but also joked that brothers often fight, and he'll be ready to clash with his old team on Sunday.


It's not easy to sit out a month, and in one week of practice, be ready to take a full workload of snaps in an NFL game.

Caldwell will have a better idea at the end of the week just how many snaps his best pass rusher, Ziggy Ansah, will be able to play Sunday, and whether or not he'll have to be on a pitch count of sorts.

"Obviously, there's certainly a possibility (Ansah could be limited)," Caldwell said. "There's no question about it. I think with everybody we kind of look at them and try to determine how we can best utilize what they're able to give us, and we determine that as we get closer to the ballgame.

"Right now, to say it's a possibility, sure it is. But have we determined that as of yet? No, we have not. We're waiting to see where he is at the end of the week."

Ansah (knee) was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice.

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