The NFL season is young but there's plenty of talk already on how good Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford can be, especially if he stays healthy.
So far, so good.
Stafford opened the season against Tampa Bay by hitting 24-of-33 for 305 yards and a career-high rating of 118.9.
In a 48-3 rout over Kansas City, Stafford threw four touchdowns and was 23-of-39 with one interception and 294 yards.
He was terrific again Sunday in helping the Lions improve to 3-0, throwing for 378 yards and two scores in an overtime win over the Vikings.
The NFL's 2009 first-round draft pick has missed most of his first two seasons with injuries. Most NFL observers give the Lions a decent chance of bidding for the playoffs, but mainly if Stafford stays healthy. So far, the offensive line has been giving him the protection he needs and Stafford has been taking advantage of it.
"We've got good football players around him, but you have to be able to make accurate passes," said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. "He knows where to go with the football. We have guys that can make plays, but you have to make accurate passes and that's what he can do. He's done a really good job of, I don't want to say touch-passing, because he doesn't just gun it, but he doesn't use all his arm all the time."
In leading the Lions to a 20-3 first half advantage vs. K.C., Stafford was 15-of-25 for 201 yards.
"I think we played good as an offense, you know, as a team," Stafford said. "Our defense played unbelievable, got turnovers, not only get momentum swings, we're able to put points on the board after them. It's tough to come back. It was fun to be a part of."
The 45-point victory was a franchise record for scoring margin, but that factor didn't really mean much to Stafford.
"It makes you 1-0 to 2-0," he said. "You know, that's what it is. We've got a heck of a team coming up with Minnesota. (It's a) division foe that's played real good against us in the recent past."
But Stafford continues to give his coach plenty of confidence in the team's ability to score points.
"He's in pretty good command," Schwartz said. "He had to run a little bit, scramble a little bit (against Kansas City). We didn't do the best job in protection....I think that Matt was able to move a little bit and extend some plays. Again, in control, no panic, was able to go out and continue just to press it and make plays and took what the defense gave us."
Kansas City coach Todd Haley admitted that his team needed to contain Stafford to some extent but fell short of that goal.
"For us, it's stop the run first and then to stay out of big play situations and you know, they had some of those, that's no doubt," he said. "The defense tried to hang in some pretty difficult situations at times."
Stafford has been making life hard on the opposing defenses by using talented receivers at his disposal such as Calvin Johnson.
"I've been doing it for awhile now and Calvin kind of knows what I'm thinking and you know, I'm the same way with him, so he had another great game," Stafford said. "He did an outstanding job and (Tony) Scheffler's (TD catch) was a play we put up this week in practice and he ran it probably better in the game than he ran it all week in practice. He had Brandon Flowers on him, a really good corner, and he made him stumble."
Johnson, in only his fifth season, has passed several statistical marks that made him the most productive receiver in Lions history his first four years.
"You know, it's a good start," Stafford said. "That's the way we look at it. We've got to keep it going, though. It's a 16-game season. It's a week-in, week-out how do you do that week and I understand teams are going to do more and more trying to take them away."
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