Support for Matthew Stafford as a “budding NFL star” at age 33 is significant following his LA Rams debut on Sunday night. Not only did Sean McVay and teammates praise his physical talents and leadership abilities following a 34-14 opening night victory against the Chicago Bears, but so too are fans and onlookers impressed by their first taste of this NFL franchise quarterback who just needed to divorce his franchise before he could show off what he can do to the world.
We only had to wait three plays into his Rams career to find out that neither the franchise nor the quarterback would look the same as they did prior to 2021.
Remember when the analytics dweebs clutched their pearls about value and said Stafford might not be a significant upgrade over Goff? pic.twitter.com/rqAG83410B— Bryce Rossler (@btrossler) September 13, 2021
If we flash back to one year ago, the LA Rams were hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and they had much of the same offensive personnel around Jared Goff. But Goff didn’t take his first deep shot until late in the second quarter — a 31-yard completion, also to Van Jefferson — and he finished the night 2-of-4 on deep attempts for 61 yards.
Stafford’s first pass attempt with LA was a seven-yard completion to Tyler Higbee, but then on the next throw, he and Jefferson gained 67 yards and a touchdown.
When the Rams got the ball back for a second drive, Stafford’s second attempt was an 18-yard completion on a deep pass to DeSean Jackson. When the Rams got the ball to start the second half, Stafford’s second attempt of that series was a 19-yard deep completion to Robert Woods, which was immediately followed up by a 56-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp.
That play, and others, helped showcase not only that LA’s offensive line and weapons have a better gunslinger under center, but that Stafford also has more talent around him than he’s ever had in 13 seasons at the NFL level.
Matthew Stafford & Cooper Kupp (56-yard TD)— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 13, 2021
Kupp had 11.3 yards of separation from the nearest defender when the pass arrived (#4 Eddie Jackson), the most separation on a completion over 40 yards downfield over the last three seasons.#CHIvsLAR | Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/wknSES43KV
Stafford would later find Higbee for 37 yards on his fifth and final deep completion of the night.
Overall, Matthew Stafford finished Week 1 with 5-of-7 completions on deep attempts (15 or more air yards on the throw) for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Jared Goff: 2-of-4, 61 yards
Matthew Stafford: 5-of-7, 197 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
And it’s not just Rams coaches, players, and fans who will have to recognize and acknowledge Stafford’s hot start with a new NFC team. After eight months of speculation of how much different LA’s offense would be with a change from Goff to Stafford, the result through the first game (albeit only one game) is that Sean McVay’s passing offense is back atop the NFL’s perch for king passer.
The Rams rank first in the NFL in yards per pass attempt, net yards per pass attempt, and passer rating, with only the Raiders and Ravens left to play a game on Monday Night Football. Some more stats through Week 1:
- LA averaged 7.7 yards per play, which is third right now, behind the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers
- The Rams averaged 11.6 Net Yards/Attempt, which is .01 ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers
- 4 of the top 7 teams in NY/A through the first weekend are in the NFC West
- The Seahawks and Cardinals each had four passing touchdowns, LA had three, and San Francisco had two; combined, the NFC West had 13 TD/2 INT on Sunday
- The LA Rams offense ranks first in Expected Points
Matthew Stafford played 165 games in Detroit and his career high for passer rating with the Lions was 148.6.
In only ONE game with the Rams, Stafford had a passer rating of 156.1.
His 12.35 Y/A? Career-high.
His 14.65 adjusted Y/A? Career-high.
Stafford’s 26 attempts to get 20 completions was also the fewest number of throws he needed to complete at least 20 passes.
His 20-point margin of victory in primetime? Second-best late night MOV of his career.
Matthew Stafford has thrown 2 TD of 50+ yards tonight. That matches the Rams entire 2020 total. pic.twitter.com/XAsWeqdajM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2021
The Rams also threw for over 300 yards without a turnover, and it’s the first time McVay’s seen that happen since Week 17 of the 2019 season. In fact, LA didn’t go a single regular season game without a turnover in 2020 and that’s another difference between the recent Rams offense and what we saw on Sunday night against the Bears.
Explosive, exciting, and never excruciating.
What’s next? We can’t say for sure yet, other than to say it is the Indianapolis Colts. In their Week 1 contest against the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts allowed four passing touchdowns to Russell Wilson and generally couldn’t stop anything from happening through the air.
If you thought it was nerve wracking to have to wait to see Stafford debut for eight months without knowing what to expect, consider what it will be like to eagerly anticipate the next game after you’ve taken your first step ahead of the rest of the league.
By the way, in his Lions debut, Jared Goff didn’t complete his first deep pass until there was :78 seconds remaining in Detroit’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Goff attempted one deep throw in the first three quarters and was 0-for-5 on downfield throws prior to completing three passes (for 20, 20, and 25 yards, which combined is less than Stafford’s initial throw to Jefferson) during desperation-time for the Lions.
Desperation time for the Rams ... is over.