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O'HARA: No. 9's top 9 moments

There are so many games, so many throws and so many moments to choose from in Matthew Stafford's first eight seasons as the Detroit Lions starting quarterback that it is impossible to assemble a list without leaving some out that could easily be included.

As the late Detroit News sports columnist Shelby Strother once wrote in trying to put together a "best-of" list, it's like picking up soap bubbles with chopsticks.

As Stafford prepares for another season, with a new contract on the way, here are nine great moments in Stafford's career that began on opening day of 2009:

1. Rookie shoulders the load

Week 11, 2009

Lions 38, Browns 37.

Storyline: Stafford's stats were huge – 422 yards and five TDs --  but what he went through to throw the game-winning TD pass made his performance memorable.

Stafford took a crunching hit on his left shoulder from Browns defensive tackle C.J. Mosley on a long pass into the end zone that was incomplete and would have been the last play in a Lions loss. However, pass interference against the Browns gave the Lions the ball at the one-yard line with no time on the clock.

Stafford was writhing in agony on the field from the hit, and backup Daunte Culpepper was sent into the game. But during the stoppage Stafford campaigned to coaches and the medical staff to stay in.

"I can play!" he insisted, still on his back. "Help me up. I can throw the ball if you need me to throw the ball."

Stafford stayed in and hit rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone to tie the game. Stafford jogged slowly to the bench, his left arm dangling, where he watched Jason Hanson make the winning extra point.

"Come on, J Hanson," Stafford said. "That's what they pay you for."

2. Christmas Eve clincher

Week 16, 2011

Lions 38, Chargers 10.

Storyline: The Lions had been out of the playoffs since 1999, and Stafford was fully recovered from injuries that limited him to 13 games his first two seasons. He was on the way to a 5,000-yard passing season.

Stafford shredded the Chargers from the start, completing 21 of 26 passes for 260 yards and three TDs in the first half as the Lions sprinted to a 24-0 lead and cruised to clinch a Wild Card berth.

Pressure? What pressure?

3. Fake spike over Dallas

Week 8, 2013

Lions 31, Cowboys 30

Storyline: Sleight of hand, fast thinking and quick feet put the cap on a 24-point fourth quarter that gave the Lions the one-point win.

They started their last possession at their 20, facing a 30-24 deficit with 1:02 left.

"You've got plenty of time," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told Stafford before the drive started.

As Stafford would prove over and over in the comeback wins that have highlighted his career, 62 seconds were an eternity, even without a timeout available to stop the clock.

Three pass completions and a spike put the ball at the Cowboys' 23, and a fourth completion to Calvin Johnson put it at the one with 14 seconds left. As the offense raced into position with the clock running, Stafford got ready to spike the ball – until he noticed that the Cowboys' defenders were on their heels, expecting the clock-killing spike.

He took the snap and leaped over the left side of the line for the tying touchdown with 12 seconds left. David Akers added the winning extra point.

Sidebar stat: Johnson's 329 receiving yards, on 14 catches, were the most ever in regulation time.

4. Lambeau streak snapped

Week 10, 2015

Lions 18, Packers 16

Storyline: There was nothing to cheer about in the first half of the season, as the Lions wobbled to the bye with a 1-7 record. Prospects were dim for them to break a 24-game road losing streak to the Packers when they returned to action.

It was not a perfect game for either team, and not one of Stafford's best performances statistically. But he threw two TD passes against an interception, including the four-yard TD pass to Lance Moore with 1:57 left that held up as the winning points in a bizarre ending.

Bottom line: One of the worst streaks in franchise history had ended. It was a team accomplishment.

5. 23-second drill

Week 9, 2016

**Lions 22, Vikings 16

View Matthew Stafford's headshots through his NFL career.


Storyline: The Lions appeared beaten when the Vikings scored to take a 16-13 lead with 23 seconds left.

But they weren't finished – even without a timeout and starting their last-hope possession at their 25 with 23 seconds left.

Two throws and a kick changed everything.

A sideline pass to Golden Tate gained eight yards, then a shot down the middle to Andre Roberts gained 28 to the Vikings' 40. After a spike, Matt Prater made it 16-16 with a 58-yard field goal as time ran out.

In overtime Stafford drove the Lions to the winning TD – a 28-yard catch and run by Golden Tate.

6. Opening night magic

Week 1, 2014

Lions 35, Giants 14

Storyline: New head coach in Jim Caldwell. New offensive system designed to fit Stafford. Monday Night TV.

The setting was perfect, and the all-around performance in the season curtain-raiser got rave reviews.

Stafford threw TD passes of 67 and 16 yards to Megatron in the first 10 minutes. For the game he threw for 325 yards and a passer rating of 125.3.

It didn't last – offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was fired halfway through the next season – but it was a night of hope on the way to an 11-5 record and a Wild Card berth.

7. Ice breaker

Week 3, 2009

**Lions 19, Washington 14.

View the best Matthew Stafford photos from his Lions career.


Storyline: The Lions had lost 19 straight games and 25 of the previous 26 when Stafford led them to a 19-14 victory at Ford field. The stats weren't eye-popping – 21 of 36 for 241 yards and a TD, but there was one play that was a sign of what was to come.

On second and nine at the Lions' 21, Stafford hit backup tight end Will Heller for 24 yards and a first down at the 45 with 2:21 left. Washington didn't get the ball for a final possession until there was 1:05 left.

Without a timeout, the Lions were able to keep Washington from scoring and give the Lions their first win under their budding franchise quarterback.

8. Comeback quiets Raider Nation

Week 15, 2011

Lions 28, Raiders 27

Storyline: The Lions were in the playoff race with three games left when they went on the road to play the Raiders. Stafford threw four TD passes without a pick, and had thrown two when disaster struck midway through the fourth quarter. Stafford was sacked and fumbled. The Raiders' Aaron Curry returned it for a TD and a 27-14 Raiders lead.

A playoff berth seemed to be slipping away.

Stafford was unfazed, leading two straight scoring drives with TD passes -- first to Titus Young, then to Johnson on a 98-yard drive that started at the two with 2:14 left.

In a season-saving drive, Stafford completed five of seven passes for 101 yards (there were two penalties in the drive to account for the extra yards). The Lions won it on a six-yard TD pass to Johnson with 39 seconds left, plus the extra point.

9. Stafford agrees to terms on a contract extension

No. 9 a Lion for life?

Storyline: There was never much doubt that Stafford would sign an extension. GM Bob Quinn and Caldwell have often said how important Stafford is to the franchise, and Stafford has said just as often that he wants to remain a Lion.

Only the timing was an issue, and that's out of the way. The Lions have agreed to terms with Stafford on a five-year contract extension through the 2022 season.

Stafford is only 28 as he enters his ninth season. He is climbing the charts on the all-time passing records, and his stature among peers, teammates and NFL executives is rising just as fast.

There are many more memories to come.

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