Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stafford Infection: Chargers

Grade: A+
Stafford was absoutely on fire with his accuracy on Saturday. Over at Pride Of Detroit, I focused on just how good he was with his touch, his velocity and throwing a tight spiral. For more on his accuracy, take a look at that breakdown.

Pocket Presence 
Grade: A
Perhaps just as impressive as his accuracy was Stafford's awareness in the backfield. Despite taking three sacks (two of which had completely unblocked rushers), Stafford did a great job locating the pressure (or lack thereof) and properly adjusting.

His most impressive display of pocket pressure came on a 3rd and 19 early in the game.
At this point, it looks like the pocket is collapsing quick. There is a pass-rusher free to Stafford's left, a defensive tackle who has penetrated deep in the middle, and maybe a little room to Stafford's right. However,  it looks like Stafford will need to make a decision and make one fast.

Stafford wisely sees it's time to get a move-on. He notices that Gosder Cherilus was unable to keep outside contain, so he finds a lane up the middle. But notice his eyes; they are always moving forward. And this is what makes Stafford so endearing. Many quarterbacks would be fine with a 3-5 yard scramble, putting their team in field-goal position. But Stafford wants a first down. He finds a wide open Nate Burleson, and makes an impressive toss on the run.
The Lions would punch it in from there on the very next play. The difference between 13-0 and 17-0 is pretty significant this early in the game.

But Stafford also showed poise when pressure wasn't coming. On another key third down (this time with only one to go) Stafford showed a great amount of patience and it eventually paid off for 16 yards and a first down.
The play begins with a pump-fake to Burleson and now Stafford is looking at his primary option. It isn't there and it looks like Stafford is about to panic.
Stafford begins to do his typical "skip backwards and throw off your backfoot" thing. In the past, this has resulted in an inaccurate throw or even the occasional interception. But Stafford uses his peripheral vision to see he has more time. (P.S. illegal hands to the face, anyone?)
Here, Stafford has his feet set, realizes he has time and just waits for someone to break open. He doesn't exactly step into the throw (though he could've and probably should've), but he isn't forced to throw off his back foot, either:

Stafford splits two defenders effortlessly, ho-hum. Another key first down play that would eventually lead to another touchdown and a 24-0 lead before the half. 

Decision Making/Vision
Grade A+
Stafford seemingly found the open receiver on every play of this game. I thought one of his most impressive displays of proper vision was on his short pass to Kevin Smith for his second touchdown of the game.
After the run fake, this is what Stafford sees. Anyone open? Maybe Titus Young at the top of the screen, but Young actually cuts his route over the middle short and tries to find open space elsewhere. Calvin is doubled a the bottom of the screen and Nate is bracketed by two defenders himself. So what does Stafford do?
He patiently waits for his check-down option: Kevin Smith. After the play-action, Smith stayed in the backfield to block any additional rushers. After seeing the line was doing an adequate job, Smith properly released down field into his route. From here, its an easy toss and catch for a touchdown.

This play was just a microcosm of the entire game. Stafford waiting patiently in the pocket and taking the underneath routes that the defense gave them. If you're interested in more examples of this, Sports Illustrated did an excellent job breaking down Stafford and how he used Calvin Johnson as a decoy for most of the day. I highly recommend it.

Overall, Stafford's day was magnificent. And given what was on the line, this game may have been Stafford's greatest day as a Detroit Lions (yes, better than the Cleveland game). He may not be a Pro Bowl quarterback this year, but he will get his first taste of the postseason, and from there, the honors get much more impressive than "Pro Bowler".

No comments:

Post a Comment