The reason for Matthew Stafford's bad start
Matthew Stafford is off to one of the worst starts of his NFL career, with a -5.9 grade through two games that ranks No. 31 in the entire NFL. But just what is causing it?
The obvious answer is that he is being badly affected by the volume of pressure he has been under through two games. Only Colin Kaepernick has been pressured on more dropbacks through two games (35 to Stafford’s 34), and when he has been pressured, Stafford has wilted in the face of it.
When kept clean this season he has had a passer rating of 102.5, completing 78.8 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one pick. His yards per attempt figure on those passes is a healthy 7.4, but the problem has been when the heat has been applied.
Stafford’s passer rating has tumbled to 43.1 on plays where he felt pressure, completing just 32.3 percent of his passes and throwing as many interceptions (two) as touchdowns. That near 60-point drop in passer rating is nearly double the NFL average of 33 points, and represents a figure that will cause major problems to an offense, especially one hemorrhaging pressure as much as the Lions are right now.
Only Manny Ramirez has earned a positive grade in pass protection so far, and the worst performer, left tackle Riley Reiff, is situated in the worst possible spot – the quarterback’s blindside, where many of the league’s top edge rushers reside. Though we have shown before that pressure matters as much whether it comes from the right, left or straight up the middle, a badly performing left tackle will put doubts into everybody’s mind in Detroit. Reiff has been beaten for one sack, one hit and eight hurries already this year.
While Reiff has never quite lived up to his draft status, especially as a pass protector – with a career average grade of -3.1 in that area – he has never been this poor. After two games his grade stands at -5.8, and the pressure that he and the rest of that Lions line is surrendering is making life very tough on Stafford.