There probably isn’t a coverage concept or pre-snap look from the defense that Matthew Stafford hasn’t seen in his time as an NFL quarterback. Now in Year 15, he’s just about seen it all, which makes him as good as there is in the league when it comes to diagnosing plays and calling audibles.
Sean McVay said recently that Stafford has the ability to check to another play often when he’s at the line, and it’s a good thing because the quarterback put on his coaching hat Sunday against the Browns.
In the first half, Stafford threw a dime to Puka Nacua over the middle, which the receiver turned into a 70-yard touchdown. But McVay said afterwards that Stafford actually checked to that play based on something he saw earlier in the week when watching film of the Browns, bringing an idea to McVay’s attention.
Here’s how the coach described it in his presser on Sunday night.
“The one long touchdown that he makes to Puka, that’s a check that he ends up making up where I’m saying, ‘Shoot. What the heck am I supposed to do? You’re playing quarterback and doing our job,’ McVay said. “But it just goes to show you what a special player he is to be able to say, ‘Hey, if we get a certain look and I recognize it, how would this be to try to attack the back end of the coverage contour and what protection?’ I’m sitting there saying, ‘(Expletive), that’s a pretty good idea. I should’ve thought of that earlier in the week.’ And he made it come to life and then Puka being able to finish for a 70-yard touchdown was big early in the game. Matthew’s a baller and he had another great game and he’s going to continue to play really well for us.”
Ted Nguyen of The Athletic broke down the play with a Twitter video, showing exactly what Stafford saw from Cleveland’s defense. As you can see from the end zone angle, it was a perfect throw from Stafford while under pressure, putting it just over the dropping linebacker’s head and into the waiting arms of Nacua.
Matthew Stafford must have been licking his chops when he saw this look from the Browns pre snap pic.twitter.com/ZGEogv8EUX
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) December 4, 2023
It doesn’t get much better than that. We don’t know what the original play was, but the play Stafford checked to was perfect.