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Rams vs. Ravens INSTANT REACTION: Stafford not getting a fair shake from the media

They criticize him when it’s convenient, ignore him when it’s not

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Imagine if Matthew Stafford had flipped his first and second half stats during the Rams’ 20-19 win over the Ravens on Sunday. Stafford completes his first 14 passes of the game for 162 yards and LA takes a 13-6 lead into halftime in Baltimore. Then sputters in the second half, throwing two picks and directly allowing a Ravens defensive touchdown but the Rams manage to hold on for a one-point win on the road.

Maybe he would be criticized for a poor showing in the fourth quarter, but at least then Matthew Stafford would have walked away with fair praise for the moments when he does look like one of the top six quarterbacks in the NFL. Instead, when he starts rough and has to atone for those mistakes, it seems as though people feel no choice but to double-down on their own narratives that Stafford is a “loser” at worst and an “equal to his predecessor” at his best.

But the 2021 Rams would not be 12-4 and still clinging onto a chance for the number one seed if Les Snead did any other available move to him at quarterback other than trading for Matthew Stafford.

The Rams would not be 12-4 with Carson Wentz.

The Rams would not be 12-4 with John Wolford.

The Rams would not be 12-4 with Sam Darnold.

The Rams would not be 12-4 with Davis Mills.

And the Rams would certainly not be 12-4 with Jared Goff. This is not a dig at the guy who held the job before Stafford, it is simply reality: Matthew Stafford has more touchdown passes in 2021 (38) than Goff has in 2020 and 2021 (37). Over his final two seasons in LA, with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, a player who Stafford has not worked with nearly as much, Goff had 44 touchdown passes. Stats as a whole may be getting overrated of late, and certainly touchdown numbers can be inflated in certain offenses and situations, but it is virtually impossible to compete in the modern NFL without quarterbacks who aren’t in the 90th percentile for creating scores.

Only Tom Brady has accounted for more touchdowns in 2021 than Matthew Stafford.

And you are more than welcome to hand Offensive Player of the Year and MVP to Cooper Kupp if you feel so inclined—no complaints here—but let’s not write Kupp’s story and then fail to mention that after 54 games played with Goff and 16 games played with Stafford:

  • 7 of his top-10 career games in yardage have come this season
  • 5 of his 7 career 2-TD games have come this season
  • 9 of his 16 career games with at least nine catches have come this season
  • Kupp has 13 catches of 30+ yards, which is more than 2019 (5) and 2020 (5) combined

You can say that Cooper Kupp is playing “better than he ever has before” if you’d like to, but it is a little convenient that the most dominant receiver in FCS history has only just now been able to assert himself as a top-three (or top-one) wide receiver in the NFL—just as a new quarterback arrives.

Is Matthew Stafford the MVP of the season? I don’t think so, but it is hardly because of five or six interceptions that make you scratch your head; look around the NFL and realize that Aaron Rodgers likely wins again because he’s the only QB in the race who has fewer than 12 interceptions. Stafford has 15 interceptions, but 25 teams have had at least 11 interceptions this season. The difference is not that far off from the average in the modern NFL.

Stafford is not the league’s best quarterback and that has never been the debate. The only thing that matters is whether or not the Rams have any quarterback who can give LA a realistic shot at beating Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, and/or Kyler Murray in the playoffs; any quarterback who can realistically end the Rams’ neverending slide against the 49ers; any quarterback who can avoid scoring three points in the Super Bowl; and any quarterback who is capable of atoning for his mistakes to lead a nine-point fourth quarter comeback rather than feeling defeated the moment you’re losing by more than a touchdown.

If you need 80 yards in two minutes, I believe Matthew Stafford has proven capable of doing that now. That, to me, is far more important than finding a quarterback who only knows how to play it safe. The Rams had “safe” over the previous two seasons and that didn’t allow them to compete for a Super Bowl.

At 12-4 with big boy passing numbers, I know without a doubt that the Rams are competing for the Super Bowl.

For more on Stafford’s perfect second half, why Les Snead should be in the running for Executive of the Year (and leading!), and what to look out for in Week 18 and the playoffs, listen to me and Blane Dydasco (Follow Blane) give our INSTANT REACTIONS on the Turf Show Times podcast.

Listen below on Megaphone, or find us on ANY of the podcast apps, I’ll put the Apple/iTunes link below—please hit that SUBSCRIBE button.