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Matthew Stafford presents risk-reward dilemma for Rams

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports activities NFL Author

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay pored over hours of movie on Matthew Stafford earlier than making a commerce for the 33-year-old quarterback in March.

One shortcoming jumped off the display screen from Stafford’s 12 seasons with the Lions: The veteran gunslinger did not at all times know when to say “uncle.”

Ten months after that blockbuster deal, it is honest to say that fixing that subject remains to be a piece in progress for McVay.

Colin Cowherd: “Let’s cease beating up on Matthew Stafford”

Colin Cowherd: "Let's stop beating up on Matthew Stafford"

Colin Cowherd decides how far Matthew Stafford can take the Rams after the QB overcame a number of turnovers to win the Week 17 sport in Baltimore.

“Generally the perfect factor is, let’s stay to combat one other play, and let’s deliver [punter] Johnny Hekker on the grass and let him punt it,” McVay lamented after a three-turnover efficiency from Stafford within the Rams’ comeback victory at Baltimore final week.

Whereas Stafford has put up spectacular numbers and performed properly in clutch conditions for the 12-4 Rams (who may clinch the NFC West with a victory over the visiting 49ers on Sunday), the Texas native nonetheless struggles with giveaways, a lot favored the discarded Jared Goff did a season in the past.

Stafford has turned the ball over six instances prior to now two video games (5 interceptions and a misplaced fumble). He has had 5 video games with not less than two turnovers this season, and the Rams are 2-3 in these contests.

4 of Stafford’s 15 interceptions have been returned for scores this season, probably the most within the NFL and tied for probably the most of any season in Stafford’s 13-year NFL profession. That’s the identical quantity Goff threw in his 5 seasons with the Rams. These 15 interceptions are additionally probably the most Stafford has thrown in a full season since 2013 (19 interceptions).

Geoff Schwartz: I am not shopping for the Rams

Geoff Schwartz: I'm not buying the Rams

Regardless of the Rams’ holding the NFC West lead, Geoff Schwartz will not be “shopping for Matthew Stafford” to guide L.A. to a Tremendous Bowl.

Does this sound acquainted? It ought to. 

From 2017 to 2020, solely Jameis Winston (70) had extra turnovers than Goff’s 65. That, together with Goff’s inconsistent decision-making beneath duress, is why the Rams traded the Cal product, together with two first-round picks and a third-round decide, to Detroit for Stafford.

Stafford’s hemorrhaging turnovers is troubling, as he acknowledged earlier this season.

“I’ve acquired to do a greater job of constructing certain that each possession that we now have ends in a kick, whether or not that be a punt or a area purpose or an additional level,” Stafford stated. “That’s one thing I’ll be actually dialed in on for so long as I’m taking part in this sport.”

Driving a five-game successful streak, the Rams are in place to make a deep playoff run. 

Receiver Cooper Kupp is within the MVP dialog, in line to develop into the primary receiving triple-crown winner since Carolina’s Steve Smith in 2005, main the NFL in receptions (138), touchdowns (15) and receiving yards (1,829).

The Rams have a stingy protection, paced by frontline gamers comparable to Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd. 

And their special-teams play has been higher this 12 months. Kicker Matthew Homosexual made the Professional Bowl, and L.A. obtained a jolt within the return sport with the midseason addition of Brandon Powell.

Stafford has dealt along with his share of nagging elbow and again accidents this season. However the Rams want him to combat via the discomfort, be environment friendly and play mistake-free soccer.

The desk is about, and it’s as much as Stafford to ship.

For the primary half of the season, he did simply that. By means of the primary eight video games, Stafford accomplished 69% of his passes for two,477 yards, 22 touchdowns and simply 4 interceptions. The Rams went 7-1 in these video games.

However over the previous eight video games, Stafford has accomplished 66% of his passes for two,171 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Rams are 5-3 in these video games.

Similar to Stafford, McVay continues to say all the best issues.

“This man’s an excellent competitor. He’s unflappable,” McVay stated of Stafford’s capacity to beat adversity throughout a sport. “Generally these [turnovers] are occupational hazards. We wish to keep away from these after we can — however not on the expense of not persevering with to compete.”

Stafford’s points caring for the soccer harken again to a different QB with a gunslinger mentality: Philip Rivers.

The longtime former QB of the Chargers had some points retaining the ball away from the opposite staff late in his profession. Rivers threw a league-high 74 interceptions from 2016 to his ultimate NFL season with the Colts in 2020. He led the NFL in interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2015 (5) and 2016 (three).

Rivers is seventh all time within the NFL with 25 pick-sixes. Stafford is tied for fourth with 27.

Nonetheless, identical to Stafford, Rivers often performed clutch when it mattered most. Stafford is third amongst energetic leaders with 34 fourth-quarter comebacks. Rivers is tied for tenth all time with 29.

Stafford has a league-high 126.8 passer ranking with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions within the fourth quarter this season.

Each gamers additionally struggled within the postseason. Groups that Rivers led completed with a 5-7 document within the playoffs. Rivers reached the AFC title sport as soon as, taking part in with a torn ACL and meniscus in his proper knee, and misplaced on the highway to the New England Patriots within the 2008 AFC Championship.

Stafford has but to win a playoff sport, going 0-3 in his 12 seasons with the Lions.

Is Stafford simply Rivers with extra arm energy? The Rams will discover out within the coming weeks. McVay’s purpose for securing Stafford was his capacity to make performs in clutch moments, with hopes that the QB could lead on the staff again to the Tremendous Bowl — a house sport in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium in February.

Stafford confirmed what he may do in clutch conditions final week in opposition to Baltimore, rebounding from a turnover-prone first half by finishing all 14 of his passes down the stretch and main L.A.’s offense on a game-winning drive for a formidable highway victory.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is known for coining the phrase “No risk-it, no biscuit.” However how a lot is McVay keen to lean into the danger/reward of counting on Stafford to make performs in crucial stretches come the postseason?

Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell stated Stafford’s efficiency within the second half of his staff’s win over the Ravens is perhaps the blueprint for the offense because the Rams head into the postseason: Take what the protection offers you, and decide your spots to take photographs down the sector.

Rivers had the same credo later in his profession: Don’t get uninterested in simple completions.

“Simply the worth of completions, the ability of completions and selecting our spots the place possibly we will be extra aggressive down the sector, extra aggressive by the scenario,” O’Connell stated. 

“Understanding that in the long run, a very powerful factor is the worth of the possession of the soccer.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, overlaying the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Comply with him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.

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