Matthew Stafford is climbing the charts on the NFL's all-time quarterback stats, and along the way he's getting endorsements and high approval ratings that most politicians couldn't buy even with an extra billion bucks or two or three to sprinkle around on the campaign trail.
Stafford has done more than lead the Detroit Lions' offense this season. He leads the team. Offense. Defense. Special teams. Practice squad.
All of it.
It's a sign of a quarterback's standing that an entire team follows his lead, and Stafford is the heartbeat of a team that has crawled out of a hole to win its last three games – capped by Sunday's 20-17 win over the Washington Redskins at Ford Field – to make its win-loss record 4-3.
Defensive end Kerry Hyder says Stafford has his unit's back, especially when it gives up a big touchdown late in the game – as it did Sunday to give the Redskins the lead before Stafford's arm and guile produced another victory.
Golden Tate, who catches Stafford's passes – and had a big reception in Sunday's game-winning drive – talks about his cool under fire.
And Chris Spielman, the former Lions' All-Pro linebacker and FOX network analyst on NFL games, has the highest praise for how Stafford has performed this season.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at Stafford's impact on the entire team, not just the offense. There's a look at how fast he has risen on the all-time charts, and comment on where he stands.
There's also a look at one lineup change that doesn't have to be explained anymore, three good things and three bad things from Sunday's game, how the narrative of a game can change quickly and a final word on Gail Cogdill, one of the Lions' all-time great wide receivers who died Thursday at his home in Spokane.
We start with Kerry Hyder:
1. Faith: It had to be a down moment for the Lions' defense when Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins tricked the entire unit with a 19-yard run around right end on a bootleg for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:05 left.
Washington had scored touchdowns on two consecutive possessions to wipe out the 13-3 advantage the Lions had taken on Matt Prater's field goal with 13:10 left in the game.
Cousin's run gave Washington a 17-13 lead with 1:05 left. Realistically, Washington figured to be in good shape to hold in check an offense that had scored only one touchdown all game and hadn't been at its best.
But just as realistically, Hyder had faith that Stafford would do what he's done throughout his career-- put together another game-winning drive.
"I knew, without a doubt," Hyder said. "He's had our back. Matt's the man. That's our leader. That's our quarterback. That's what we expect from him.
"When it's him, it's not surprising."
2. Chris Spielman's view: Spielman has been the analyst for the FOX Network broadcast for the Lions' three-game winning streak at home, and he puts Stafford in elite company. Spielman has always been high on Stafford, and he's raised his opinion a notch or two based on what he's seen from Stafford this year.
"He might not be the best quarterback in the league, but nobody's doing it better than he is," Spielman said after Sunday's game. "Look who he's doing it without. He doesn't have Ameer Abdullah. He doesn't have Theo Riddick. He doesn't have Eric Ebron."
3. "Destiny:" That's a word Spielman used during the broadcast. The Lions recovered a fumble in their end zone that kept Washington from getting at least a field goal. The offense turned that into a field goal of their own.
Stafford got back his own fumble on a drive that ended in a field goal.
A pass bounced off Redskins defensive back Breshaud Breeland's back to Tate for a reception.
"It's almost like they felt they were destined to win the game," Spielman said.
4. Spielman's QB comparison: The third play of the game-winning drive was a high pass that Andre Roberts caught for a 20-yard gain to Washington's 18-yard line. In Stafford's view, it wasn't one of his better throws.
He changed his arm angle to fit the ball into a spot, and he thought he might have overthrown Roberts for what could have turned into an interception.
Spielman saw it differently. He saw as a throw that only a few quarterbacks can make.
"Throwing across his body, side arm – a dart," Spielman said of the throw. "There are only two guys in the world who can make that throw: Stafford and Aaron Rodgers."
5. Chart climbing: Stafford has passed many of the legends this season in career passing categories, but it's not something he's dwelling on.
"I think I'll look a back on it when I'm done playing and really appreciate it," Stafford said. "To me the biggest thing is it's the guys I've gotten to play with. A quarterback can't have yards, can't have wins, any of that stuff, without a team around him. I've been lucky to have some really good players. I share those numbers with those guys.
"It's fun to be sitting in a pretty good spot in some of those record books."
Passing yards: With 266 Sunday he has 27,890 for his career, good for 58th on the all-time list ahead of none other than Broadway Joe Namath, who had 27,663.
Stafford is likely to pass two more Hall of Famers next week in Houston – Ken Stabler (27,938) and Terry Bradshaw (27,989).
TD passes: Four last week against the Rams gave him 177 for his career, ahead Hall of Famers Otto Graham (174) and Norm Van Brocklin and Namath (173 each).
Stafford's one TD pass Sunday – the game-winner to Anquan Boldin – was No. 178 for his career. Before Thanksgiving he should easily be in the top 50, a position currently held by Mark Brunell with 184 TD passes.
6. Position switch: Rookie Graham Glasgow started at left guard in place of 2015 first-round draft pick Laken Tomlinson Sunday. Glasgow and Tomlinson rotated at left guard two weeks ago. Last week, with right guard Larry Warford out with an injury, Glasgow started at left guard while Tomlinson was shifted to the right side.
Glasgow and Warford were the starting guards Sunday. When asked why Glasgow got the start at left guard, head coach Jim Caldwell replied: "Performance."
7. Three good things from Sunday:
- Turnover margin: The Lions had a 2-0 margin. They recovered two fumbles and did not have a turnover.
- Stafford's legs: He had two runs for 32 yards. A 14-yard run on the second play of the game-winning drive put the ball at Washington's 38-yard line. From there, the Lions could run a normal passing offense, which they did.
- Zach Zenner touchdown: On second and goal, Zenner burrowed through a hole on the left side to reach the end zone for his first regular-season TD as a pro.
8. Three bad things from Sunday:
- Giving up touchdowns on two straight fourth-quarter possessions. The two drives covered 75 and 76 yards respectively.
- Cousins' TD: The Lions were fooled completely on his 19-yard run around right end on a bootleg. Outside containment was an issue at times Sunday as Washington ran 29 times for 134 yards.
- Darius Slay's injury: He did not return after sustaining a hamstring injury in the second half. Slay is by far the Lions' best cornerback. If the hamstring injury lingers, which is possible, they will be without their best cornerback.
9. The narrative: The last 8:20 of Sunday's game is another testament to the fickle nature of pro football, and how quickly perceptions and reality can change.
Washington scored two touchdowns on consecutive possessions to take a 17-13 lead with 1:05 left. All they had to do was protect the end zone to get a fifth straight victory, and head home with the good feeling of how their offense persevered after being kept out of the end zone for the first three quarters.
Instead, the Lions came back to win, and the Redskins had a wrenching loss and had to ask questions about why the offense started slowly and couldn't hang on.
It's the way it is. Results dictate everything. It's no more complicated than that.
10. Last Word – Gail Cogdill: Cogdill was built like a Pro Bowl receiver of any era – 6-3, 200 pounds, fast and with big hands. In the eight-plus seasons he played for the Lions, Cogdill made three Pro Bowls.
In his second, third and fourth seasons with the Lions (1961-63), Cogdill had reception totals of 45, 53 and 48 catches, receiving yards totals of 956, 991 and 941, and yards per catch averages of 21.1, 18.7 and 19.7.
The point is, Cogdill could have played and been good in any era.
It's always asked if old-time players could have played in this era, and it's a fair question. But the question should be turned around: who from this era could have played in earlier eras?
For example, could some of the quarterbacks who complain about being hit high, low and in between have competed when it was fair game to hit them in the head as often as possible? The same for receivers, who were fair game for contact all over the field, and players at other positions who could have to adjust to different rules.
Like a lot of similar issues, there are more firm questions than answers.