While you weren’t looking, Matthew Stafford is having his best season

Detroit Lions

The team around him continues to fall short, but Matthew Stafford is quietly having the best year of his career.

When his career is over, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will be a test case for the value of numbers in a pass-heavy NFL era for Hall of Fame candidacy. He has never won a playoff game (0-3 postseason record), but after an injury-marred beginning of his career he has started every game since Week 1 of the 2011 season.

The Lions lost for the fourth time on five games on Sunday, 31-24 to the Oakland Raiders. Some plays here and there could have shifted the result, but Stafford set a season-high with 406 yards to go with three touchdowns and an interception.

Stafford has topped 340 yards through the air in three straight games. He has 10 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 116.2 passer rating, with yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt averages over 9.0, over that span.

The sieve that is the Lions’ defense, and the lack of a consistent ground game with running back Kerryon Johnson out, has forced Stafford to throw a lot more than expected when offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell came aboard professing a focus on the run.

Stafford is fourth in the league in passing yards with 2,499, while leading the league in passing yards per game (312.4). In Detroit’s three wins, he is averaging just under 263 passing yards per game. In five games the team hasn’t won, including a tie, Stafford is averaging a little over 342 passing yards per contest.

Looking deeper, Stafford currently has career-bests in passer rating (106.0), yards per attempt (8.6; fourth in the league), adjusted yards per attempt (9.1) and QBR (70.0) at the halfway point this season. His interception rate (1.7 percent) is also tied for the best of his career in a season where he played more than three games. His 19 touchdown passes are second in the league.

Stafford is practically on pace for the second 5,000-yard season of his career, as another sign it’s hardly his fault the Lions are losing based on pure production. But after last Sunday’s loss to Oakland, he took accountability anyway.

A lot of close games,” Stafford said. “That’s the way this game goes. That’s the way this league is. We just got to find ways to win it. Make a couple of plays here or there. It doesn’t always have to be at the end of the game. It can be at the beginning of the game too, to give us a little bit more of a cushion. I’ve got to do a better job, too.

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Stafford has had some prolific seasons, finishing third, second and third in league in passing yards respectively from 2011-2013 and third again in 2017, but he has never led the league. He may very well do it this year, operating under the radar while the Lions continue to put more marks in the loss column than the win column.

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