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Matthew Stafford has chance to tie Kurt Warner’s streak against NFL’s worst defense

Matthew Stafford could join list of QBs to throw 3 TD in 4 straight games and the Rams have the perfect opponent

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks who face the Washington Commanders this season, the next opponent for the L.A. Rams, are averaging 2.3 touchdowns and less than 0.5 interceptions per game and that’s with Desmond Ridder throwing half of those picks in a single contest. Matthew Stafford, who has thrown 11 touchdowns in the last three games alone, has an outstanding opportunity to keep his streak going.

What can Stafford, Puka Nacua, and Cooper Kupp be expected to do against a defense that ranks last in the NFL in most defensive categories?

A lot. They can be expected to do a lot.

Whether the Rams reach and surpass those expectations is not guaranteed, but L.A. is being gifted an opportunity to face the Commanders at a time when head coach Ron Rivera is likely weeks shy of unemployment and practically begging his players to show up and give their best effort out of a duty to professionalism. But whether the players and coaches have cared or not cared, Washington’s pass defense has been one of the worst of the last 20 years.

Individual QB games

Of 13 quarterbacks to face the Commanders, only four have failed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions: Josh Dobbs had zero touchdowns, zero interceptions in his first career start with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, Josh Allen had one touchdown, one interception for the Bills in Week 3 (but rushed for a score and won 37-3), Mac Jones had one touchdown and one interception in Week 9, and Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder threw three interceptions against two interceptions in Week 6.

Ridder’s three interceptions is HALF of all the interceptions thrown against the Commanders in 2023.

Eight quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns and no interceptions against Washington’s defense: Jalen Hurts did it twice (total 6 TD:0 INT), Dak Prescott and Justin Fields both had 4 TD:0 INT, Tommy DeVito had 3 TD:0 INT, Geno Smith, Tyrod Taylor, and Tua Tagovailoa each had 2 TD:0 INT.

The other quarterback to face the Commanders is Russell Wilson, and he had 3 TD:1 INT in one of his better performances on the Broncos.

If Washington doesn’t pick off any more passes this season, they will be the sixth team ever to allow more than 30 touchdowns and intercept six or fewer passes. The most recent was the 2020 Houston Texans, who allowed 30:3. Washington’s -134 point differential right now is the worst of all six teams currently on that list.

Five years ago, the San Francisco 49ers surprisingly allowed 35 TD:2 INT in 2018 and went 4-12.

Team Defense

The Commanders have allowed 5 QBs to pass for at least 3 touchdowns against them this season, which is tied with the Bears and Eagles for the most such games in the NFL. Only one other team, the Lions, has at least 4 such games. The Commanders are 1-4 in those contests.

The Eagles are 4-1 in those games.

Five teams have yet to give up three passing touchdowns in a game.

The Commanders have 10 games in which they’ve allowed 2 TD passes, most in the NFL. They are 2-8 in those contests, while Philadelphia is 7-2 in the same situation. Washington ranks 32nd in points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, yards per pass allowed, interceptions, passer rating allowed, and yards per drive allowed. They are also 32nd in DVOA on defense, as you can imagine.

Change doesn’t matter

Rivera “fired” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after losing 45-10 on Thanksgiving, but really he just gave Del Rio a head start on the inevitable. Del Rio will be hired again, soon. Rivera might not find another job coaching football, as it has been 14 years since he last served as a defensive coordinator. Until now.

Rivera took over defensive play calling duties in Washington’s 45-15 loss to the Dolphins in Week 13. They are now coming off of a bye.

The Commanders have allowed 19 touchdowns on vertical routes this season, eight more than any other defense (stat a week old), a sign of more good things to come for the Rams.

Puka, Cooper, Tutu time

The most receiving yards against the Commanders this season is D.J. Moore’s 230 in Week 5. He also had three touchdowns. A.J. Brown had 175 and 130 in his two contests, while Tyreek Hill had 157, Drake London had 125, Marvin Mims had 113, Stefon Diggs had 111, DeVonta Smith had 111 and 78, DK Metcalf had 98, Darren Waller had 98, and Tyler Lockett had 92.

Six different players have caught multiple touchdowns against the Commanders, if you include A.J. Brown twice.

That’s great news for Puka Nacua, an NFL history-making rookie who is sure to get at least seven targets against the league’s worst pass defense. Nacua has 1,113 yards now, but is 1,300 in reach this weekend? It is.

Puka’s five 100-yard games is tied for the 6th-most ever by a rookie. One more will tie him with Billy Howton, who had six with the Packers in 1952. Two more will tie him for second place with OBJ, Justin Jefferson, and Harlon Hill.

Puka sits 13th all-time for rookie season receiving yardage and 100 more yards would put him in eighth place, passing Hill, Bill Brooks, Terry Glenn, Michael Thomas, and Michael Clayton. And 200 more yards will pass Howton and OBJ and tie him with Randy Moss for fifth-most.

Cooper Kupp rebounded from a six-game slump to catch eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in last week’s overtime loss to the Ravens. Could he get his fourth 100-yard game of the season?

Tutu Atwell has been much slower to produce lately and has one catch in the last two games. This is an opportunity for him to start up again.

Matthew Stafford time

Three weeks ago, Stafford had eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Three games later, he has 19 and 9. Stafford has 11 TD:1 INT in the last three games, further bolstering an argument that he’s back in Pro Bowl form.

This could be Stafford’s fourth-straight game with at least three touchdown passes, something he didn’t even do as a Super Bowl champion with 41 touchdowns in 2021. In fact, in a long career with a lot of scores, Stafford has never had four straight games with at least three touchdowns.

He would be the first QB to accomplish that since Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes had 4-game streaks in 2021. And he’s facing the NFL’s worst pass defense in his attempt.

He’d join Kurt Warner in 1999 as the only Rams QBs to do it.

Does Ron Rivera have any more gifts left in him before he rides into the sunset?