The reason for Matthew Stafford’s bad start

Lions QB Matthew Stafford ranks No. 31 in the NFL in our QB grades through two weeks.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Mike

    Most PFF stats are individual but your QB rating seems flawed. While you take into account drops to benefit the QB, I’m not sure enough weight is given to pressure. Watching the latest Lions game it was clear that the problem was not the QB.

    • Jon Ep

      and what about last year when he rated 21st in passer rating? how about the year before when he rated 19th?

      • Mike

        They won 11 games last year and were a blown call away from winning a playoff game. Stafford was fine.

    • rj fisher

      Stafford was part of the problem, the pick he threw right at the DE was awful. Also, when he’s under pressure his already suspect mechanics completely fall apart and his accuracy (which has never been great) disappears.

      • twelsh36446

        Completely right rj. His mechanics are fine with little pressure, but fall apart with the least little bit of pressure. He looked good in the preseason without the pressure, but thats not saying much.

  • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

    They better come up with something soon . . . next week, Denver’s stable of pass-rushers come to town. At least it probably will be a low-scoring affair.

  • Walden Gibbs

    The problem is the play calling in a big way. They abandon the run way too quick which allows the defense to pim their ears back and just rush the passer. I’m not saying Stafford doesn’t have his fault but come on…

    • Jon Ep

      everybody in detroit ALWAYS wants to blame the coach or general manager. Stafford has ranked in the bottom third in the league in qb rating several times in the last four years. This is not just a coaching problem. The guy isn’t good, and we need to accept this.

      • ToreBear

        So? All thats needed for a good passer rating is getting a lot of dumpoffs and touchdowns in garbage time. And never take chances that might affect your passer rating, even if it means you reduce the chance of winning.

      • twelsh36446

        He has a rifle arm, but that’s about it. Maybe, he has taken to many hits to the head. Any type of pressure and he could be standing in place yet his feet are moving.

  • Dohkay

    I was hoping for something a bit more in depth than the standard he’s been pressured a lot and has played poorly under said pressure.

    • twelsh36446

      Its the truth. Stafford can’t handle any type of pressure. Like the writer said he wilts. He has always been like that. That’s why teams blitz him so much. He’s also bad at picking up the blitzes. You want to beat the Lions throw the all the linemen and linebackers at him and he still doesn’t find the open guy.

    • PFFSamMonson

      Occam’s Razor.

      • Dohkay

        Not saying I disagree with the opinion, just wanted to see a bit more detail or insight. Most Lions fans think that Lombardi is at fault for poor play calling. Have you seen Stafford missing open receivers when under pressure? Is he making poor choices or is he just inaccurate? Are there even any options for him or are the routes all late developing with little chance for a quick completion?

        I like that you guys are putting out a little t more content this season but it just seems to be general stuff without much analysis. I’d prefer fewer articles with more insight but appreciate the work you guys do regardless.

  • Will

    The Lions offensive line has regressed big time this year. Both tackles have been destroyed so far, and Swanson has regressed to a point he’s much worse than Raiola. (to be fair, Swanson needs more experience, but Stafford is paying his tuition)
    Stafford, on the other hand, has terrible mobility, which is necessary in the modern NFL. Only Peyton Manning is less mobile. On the TD pass to Calvin (great catch by CJ), Stafford had a wide open running lane to get the 1st down and run to at least the 5 yard line–he didn’t and was fortunate to complete that pass. His feet seem to be in concrete whenever he moves. Coupling that with his shoddy O-Line, and you have him in the hospital getting X-rays.

    • Tuff Lynx

      Actually, Swanson hasn’t been as bad as most other offensive linemen. He hasn’t been good either, but he has played better than any year that Raiola was here except for 2013. Manny Ramirez has been decent. Everybody else has just stunk the place up.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Stafford has always been known for being a streaky QB. When he is in the zone he can shred any defense but far too often he gets off to a bad start and then forces passes when he shouldn’t – making things even worse. With the horrible season the Tigers had in baseball, Detroit fans are in an ugly mood and won’t be cutting the Lions any slack for mistakes. At least the Redwings start their hockey season soon and should provide some relief.

    • twelsh36446

      Umm, worried about the Wings to.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The Redwings always find a way no matter how much adversity they face. Many of the Detroit Lion players were still in diapers when the Redwings began their current playoff streak.

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    • John C

      Stafford is up and down like a yo yo ..When he;s hot he’s pretty good but not great..When he’s not very good and taking a pounding he’s almost awful ..getting hit a lot during a game takes a lot out of any NFL QB and they start forcing passes .Other teams have known for years you can rattle his cage ..

  • ToreBear

    The more variables I don’t know about being counted the less inclined I am to taking their result at face value. QB play involving the most variables indicates I value other sources of information more, wich I do. For example, Stafford lost feeling in his arm parts of last weeks game. Since PFF does not show grades by quarters it’s difficult to measure how his lack of feeling in his arm afected his PFF grades.

    Also it would be interesting to see how the cumulative amount of hits afect the qb later in the game.

    How about you guys make a little more data available?

  • techvet

    Read Peter Kings’ MMQB story this morning about how bruised and beat-up Stafford was after yesterday’s game.

    • twelsh36446

      His fault he didn’t get the ball out fast enough.

      • Tuff Lynx

        It is not the quarterback’s fault when he is under pressure before he can even complete his dropback. If the play calls for a seven step drop and the offensive line cannot hold for more than five steps back then the offensive coordinator needs to call plays that develop quicker. No matter what, the offensive line is failing in a big way. I tend to believe that is also because they are not being used right. The Lions offensive linemen seem to be much more suited to a power man blocking scheme yet there are all kinds of assignment switches in the Lions scheme that make it more like a zone scheme. They are trying to pound square pegs into round holes.

  • twelsh36446

    If you can’t handle pressure then its time to rid ourselves of him.

    • FunkyTime

      And get who? It’s easier said than done to find really good quarterbacks.