Why Rams' Matthew Stafford still has more interceptions than touchdown passes

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) was not able to throw a touchdown pass against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Matthew Stafford will not go into a “Monday Night Football” matchup against the San Francisco 49ers riding an obvious wave of production.

The Rams quarterback did not throw a touchdown pass in last Sunday’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the first time since the 2020 season — when Stafford played for the Detroit Lions — that the 14th-year pro was shut out.

But Stafford and coach Sean McVay are hardly concerned.

For the first time in three games, Stafford did not have a pass intercepted. And at least one potential touchdown was botched by a receiver.

“My main goal is put up as many points as we can and win the game,” Stafford said Thursday. “There were some opportunities that I could have done a little bit better job, so I’ll try to make sure I do that and get us in the end zone more often.”

Stafford has passed for four touchdowns, with five interceptions.

He is completing 72.6% of his passes, which ranks second in the NFL behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (77.4%). Stafford, New England's Mac Jones and New Orleans' Jameis Winston are tied for most interceptions.

Now Stafford is preparing to face a 49ers team that ranks second in the NFL in total defense, first in pass defense, third in scoring defense and fourth in rushing defense.

The 49ers feature defensive end Nick Bosa, linebacker Dre Greenlaw and safety Jimmie Ward, among others.

“Really well-rounded defense,” Stafford said of a unit that has eight sacks and three interceptions, “super physical.”

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) congratulates Cam Akers after his touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) congratulates Cam Akers after his touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Stafford, 34, was sacked seven times in a season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. But with Stafford operating behind an offensive line reconfigured because of injuries, the Atlanta Falcons and Cardinals sacked him only once.

Stafford continues to manage tendinitis in his right elbow. He said it felt “pretty good” as the Rams (2-1) prepare for the 49ers, who fell to 1-2 after an 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

“Continuing to get better,” he said.

In last Sunday’s 20-12 victory at Arizona, Stafford completed 18 of 25 passes for 249 yards. The Rams lost an almost certain touchdown when receiver Allen Robinson let a short pass sail between his hands.

Unlike Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Stafford is not regarded as a quarterback who typically extends plays after contact. But against the Cardinals, he made the play of the game in the third quarter when he averted a sack by spinning and then throwing a sidearm pass to receiver Cooper Kupp. The play ignited a slumbering offense and led to a touchdown.

“There were a couple plays that not many people in the world can make,” McVay said of Stafford this week, adding, “What we've realized, especially over the last couple weeks, is that the stats don't even begin to tell the total story.

“It is about winning the football game. In a lot of instances, I thought he led us offensively with a chance to be able to score 35 points, but we didn't, we scored 20.”

In three games against the 49ers last season, Stafford passed for six touchdowns, with five interceptions. And the Rams got a break in the NFC championship game when 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt dropped an almost certain interception that might have enabled the 49ers to close out a victory.

Last November, in a 31-10 Monday night loss at Levi’s Stadium, Stafford completed 26 of 41 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, including a pick six by Ward.

In the season finale at SoFi Stadium, Stafford was 21 of 32 for 238 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, including one in overtime that sealed a 27-24 defeat.

Three weeks later, in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium, Stafford completed 31 of 45 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

After Tartt dropped a long, fourth-quarter pass intended for receiver Van Jefferson, the Rams tied the score with a field goal. Stafford then engineered a winning field-goal drive for a 20-17 victory that ended a six-game losing streak against the 49ers and sent the Rams to the Super Bowl.

The game Monday night will be the fourth between the teams in less than a year.

“They know us,” Stafford said, “we know them.”

Etc.

Rookie cornerback Derion Kendrick (concussion) was limited but McVay said he expected Kendrick would be available Monday against the 49ers. Cornerbacks David Long (groin) and Cobie Durant (hamstring) and safety Jordan Fuller (hamstring) did not practice.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.