Lions-Colts Final Thoughts: Quarterback Matthew Stafford beats the clock to score points, and not just in the fourth quarter; Random Thoughts on stats to consider for the Colts and Lions, and my prediction.
Stafford's magic touch that has led the Detroit Lions on game-winning rallies is not confined to the fourth quarter and overtime.
Stafford has beaten the clock at the end of the half to lead the Lions to field goals and touchdowns.
They lack the drama of a fourth-quarter scoring drive, but points scored on drives before halftime have been the difference in the final margin in the Lions' wins over the Cardinals and Falcons this year.
The Lions need to be productive on offense from start to finish against the Colts, who have one of the NFL's strongest defenses overall. In yards allowed per game, they rank third against the pass, second against the run and second overall.
Last week's drive to the game-tying touchdown and subsequent winning extra point was another example of Stafford's coolness under fire. He operates with a poise and assuredness that radiates to teammates in pressure situations.
"Absolutely," said head coach Matt Patricia. "I think football in general is sometimes organized chaos. Sometimes it's organized. Sometimes it's not.
"Matthew's been there a lot of times – and really, just phenomenal in those situations. It was just great.
"I think they did a phenomenal job of everyone just being on the same page."
It was Stafford's 30th fourth-quarter comeback and 36th game-winning drive.
Here is a brief recap of two games this season in which Stafford beat the clock to put points on the board:
Week 3, at Cardinals:
First half: 75-yard drive, six plays, ending in a 15-yard TD pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay with 31 seconds left in the half to give the Lions a 17-13 lead.
Fourth quarter: The Lions won the game, 26-23, on a 10-play, 70-yard drive that set up Matt Prater's game-winning field goal as time expired.
Week 6, at Falcons:
First half: Five plays, 43 yards to set up Prater's 50-yard field goal on the last play of the half to cut the Falcons' lead to 14-10.
Fourth quarter: Eight plays, 75 yards to an 11-yard TD pass to T.J. Hockenson on the last play of regulation time, followed by Prater's 48-yard extra point for a 23-22 win.
The point in what those first-half drives mean is that points count, whenever they're scored. They add up and get the Lions in position to win with a last-minute rally.
Wonder which of the Colts will benefit most from having a bye?
Will it be 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers, who passed for season highs of 371 yards and three TDs in Indy's 31-27 win over the Bengals in Week 6 before the bye?
Or will it be rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, who had 12 carries for 60 yards against the Bengals and has been carrying the rushing load – 89 carries, 369 yards and 3 TDs in the first six games?
Speeding up: Maybe it's just me, but it looks like the game is faster than in the first month or so because players have gotten into better game condition after a shortened training camp and no preseason games.
"I would say the game always looks fast to me," Patricia said. "Those guys are always moving pretty quick. I would say some of the fundamentals have settled down a little bit. Let's hope that stays that way.
"That's really maybe the biggest part of it, where maybe where you're seeing a little bit better tackling, a little bit better angles, maybe some better running with the ball and better vision and things like that."
Indy stat to consider: Points allowed is a stat that favors the Colts by a wide margin. They've given up only 115 points in six games compared to 165 for the Lions. The 50-point differential is an average of 8.3 points per game.
Lions' stat to consider: The balance in the Lions' passing game is underscored by these reception totals: Hockenson (22); Golladay (20); running back D’Andre Swift (20); wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (19); wide receiver Danny Amendola (15).
Bottom line: Stafford is an equal opportunity passer. Get open, you get the ball.
Prediction: Everything the Lions want to accomplish is still in front of them. Win games, and they'll make a playoff run. And it's the same for the Colts, which adds to the intrigue of this matchup. I don't see Rivers outplaying Stafford.
Rivers failed to throw a TD pass and had a late interception while playing for the Chargers last year in a 13-10 loss to the Lions in Week 2. Stafford had two TD passes and two picks in that game.
Take the better quarterback in this game.
Pick: Lions 24, Colts 16.