Friday, October 19, 2012
'Tough guy' Matthew Stafford to face bad memories in Chicago
By Dave Birkett
Source: Detroit Free Press
Matthew Stafford's flair for the dramatics started long before he was a Lion.
Stafford didn't lead many comeback victories as a schoolboy star in Texas -- his teams were so good he didn't have to. But in college, Stafford showed a penchant for late-game heroics early during his time at Georgia.
"We had some good comebacks, for sure," Stafford said Thursday. "Ask Calvin. We beat them my freshman year."
Stafford threw a 4-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 left to give Georgia a 15-12 win over Calvin Johnson's Georgia Tech team in 2006.
On Sunday, he and Johnson were on the field again -- this time as teammates -- when he engineered his eighth game-winning drive in 34 NFL starts, 26-23, against the Eagles.
Stafford passed for 220 of his 311 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, and while he did his best to credit his teammates and coaches for his comebacks Thursday, coach Jim Schwartz said there's no secret why Stafford is so good with games on the line.
"I think it's a combination of a couple things," Schwartz said this week. "One, it's (that) he has good players around him and he has confidence in that. Two, he's a good player.
"He's a tough guy. There's a lot of things you need to do when you're a quarterback, and being able to bounce back from a bad play, having a short memory, all those different things, they're all very important."
Stafford shook off his worst first half of the season against the Eagles, when he was 6-for-18, and he'll have more bad memories to suppress Monday when he returns to his personal house of horrors, Soldier Field.
As a rookie in 2009, Stafford suffered an injured knee in a 48-24 loss to the Bears, missed the next two games and eventually required season-ending surgery.
In 2010, Stafford suffered a separated throwing shoulder in the first half of an opening 19-14 loss at Chicago. He missed five straight games, hurt his shoulder again when he returned and finished his second straight year on the operating table and injured reserve.
Last year, Stafford showed up at Soldier Field with a broken finger and proceeded to throw four interceptions in his worst game of the season, a 37-13 loss. Frustrated with his play in the fourth quarter, Stafford threw Bears cornerback D.J. Moore to the ground after his third pick, causing players from both benches to spill onto the field.
Asked Thursday if he and Moore exchanged Christmas cards after the season, Stafford deadpanned, "No. I lost his address."
"It's not a revenge game, it's a rivalry game," Stafford said. "Every time we play each other, it's a big game. They're just a couple miles down the road, so we see them a lot, hear about them a lot. It's a team that we definitely enjoy playing."
While Stafford has never won at Soldier Field, this year's Bears team should provide the sternest test yet.
Chicago (4-1) has won three straight to take the NFC North lead and has the league's No. 1 scoring and total defense. The Bears lead the league with 13 interceptions and have five defensive touchdowns, and Stafford has been more turnover-prone than usual with five interceptions.
Coach Lovie Smith said his defense needs to continue its big-play ways if it's going to stop Stafford again.
"The guys have bought into the philosophy on how important it is to take the ball away," Smith said in a conference call with Detroit reporters Thursday. "We practice it every day. They see the importance of it and what it can do as far as helping you win."