COORDINATOR CUT-UP

Coordinator Cut Up: Stafford proving he's a finisher

Posted Oct 16, 2012

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is quickly earning a reputation as that type of player after recording the eighth fourth-quarter comeback of his young career in Sunday's 26-23 overtime win in Philadelphia.

If you didn't catch the Broncos and Chargers game Monday night, you missed watching the Broncos come back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to win 35-24 in San Diego and get back to 3-3 before their bye.

Maybe you looked at the box score Tuesday morning and saw that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, not realizing that most of it came in the second half with two of those scores coming in the fourth quarter alone.

The Broncos' second-half performance just goes to show how important it is to have a fourth-quarter finisher at quarterback.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is quickly earning a reputation as that type of player after recording the eighth fourth-quarter comeback of his young career in Sunday's 26-23 overtime win in Philadelphia.

Stafford didn't play particularly well for the first three quarters, and he'll probably be the first one to admit it. His passer rating for the first half was 27.8 on 6-of-18 passing for 91 yards. It crept up to 28.1 after three quarters, when he went 1-for-3 for no yards.

He seemed to turn it up a notch in the fourth quarter and overtime, though, when games are ultimately won and lost in the NFL. He completed 15-of-24 for 220 yards with a fourth-quarter and overtime passer rating of 106.3.

"That's a trait that you can build on," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told Detroitlions.com. "Guys have made great careers out of being fourth-quarter quarterbacks. I can think of some Hall of Famers.

"I told Matt, ‘That's something – that's a strength we can always lean on.'

"In the NFL, if you don't have that ability, you're really out of games. Those are things we can always lean on. When a lot of teams might be technically out of it, I don't ever feel that way with Matt."

Stafford has four touchdown passes without an interception in the fourth quarter and ranks fifth in the NFL in fourth-quarter efficiency with a 103.9 rating. He has completed 57-of-89 passes for 714 yards.

It should be noted that, of the four quarterbacks ahead of Stafford (Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers), only Stafford has attempted more than 66 passes in the fourth quarter. Cutler has attempted 27.

Stafford has proven over the course of the last two years that he's at his best when he has to be; when things haven't gone as planned and it's up to him to make a play.

"I think you see all the quarterbacks that are having great success now - or (those that have) in the past - are going to make off-schedule plays when they have to," Linehan said. "You're not just running the offense, making good decisions, you've got to make plays and all bets are off. Checking the ball down is not an option - you've got to make plays.

"It might be an option on a certain down, but in long-yardage or on fourth down or third down, a play's got to be made and that obviously bodes well for what Matt's been able to do in the fourth quarter of a lot of games since he's been here."

The Chargers were out of the gates fast Monday night, but Manning and the Broncos showed that it's the last 100 yards of any race that are the most important.

Similarly, Stafford's a finisher, and the Lions are always in a game because of it.