When the Lions absolutely needed Matthew Stafford, he delivered.
Stafford, in a slump for the early part of the season, had a big day against the Seahawks and led a game-winning drive. With 20 seconds left, Stafford completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young to give the Lions a 28-24 victory.
Stafford accounted for all four Lions scores, with three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. He completed 34 of 49 passes for 352 yards. That looked much more like 2011 Matthew Stafford than what we had seen in 2012.
The game-winning touchdown came on third-and-goal, with the Lions needing to either punch it in the end zone or presumably kick a field goal and send it to overtime. Stafford came up with a well-placed low throw that Young was able to cradle for the score.
Stafford had been struggling, with just five touchdowns and six interceptions coming into Sunday's game. His yards per game, yards per attempt and completion percentage were well off last season's numbers. Stafford was an elite quarterback last season, but hadn't been before Sunday. He has looked mostly uncomfortable and tried to rely on his arm for deep throws rather than give what the defense gives him. He repeatedly beat his head against a wall trying to throw deep against Chicago last week, even though the Bears overplayed the long pass and dared Stafford to take short passes. The Lions didn't score until the final minute against Chicago.
Stafford's problems have coincided with Calvin Johnson's baffling struggles. Johnson, the undisputed best receiver in the game, is having a quiet year. Johnson had 16 touchdowns last year, but just one this year. He had three catches for 34 yards last week against Chicago. Against Seattle, Johnson didn't catch his first pass until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter, and finished with three catches for 46 yards. Chicago and Seattle are very good defensively, especially on the perimeter, but Johnson has never struggled like that, even against good defenses.
Even more shocking, Johnson had a golden opportunity for the game-winning touchdown on Detroit's final drive, and he dropped it.
The Lions can at least figure out what's wrong with the Stafford-Johnson connection coming off a win.
Stafford made the plays he needed to make, stood in tough against a great Seahawks defense and carried the team to a win. It was reminiscent of last year, when Stafford helped get the Lions to the playoffs. Detroit, which is now 3-4, kept its season alive with the win. If the Lions want to get in the playoffs again, Stafford will have to continue to be great like he was on Sunday.
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