Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stafford Infection: Eyes

Matthew Stafford had some trouble in the first half against the St. Louis Rams. This is not news. He threw three interceptions that left many fans scratching their heads wondering what had happened to their franchise quarterback. Indeed, all of those interceptions were pretty ugly looking and concerning. However, what most people didn't see was the adjustment Stafford made in the second half to prevent the Rams from getting a fourth or fifth pick.

In the first half, the Rams defenders were jumping routes with impressive instincts. They seemingly knew where the ball was going before Stafford did. But the Rams defenders don't have ESP, they were just reading Stafford's eyes.

Over at Pride Of Detroit, I broke down all of Stafford's interceptions, but take a look at Stafford's second interception, specifically. (click pictures to big-ify)

As you can see, Stafford is eyeing his target (Brandon Pettigrew) the entire time. The Rams linebacker, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, is already breaking on the route before Stafford has even begun his throwing motion. The aggressive play by the defender was typical of the first half of this game. An adjustment was needed.

In the second half of the game, Stafford started to use the Rams' aggressiveness against them. How did he do it? With his eyes.

Early in the fourth, facing a 3rd and 10, backed up near their own endzone, the Lions needed a big play, and they nearly got it thanks to Stafford's misdirection. Matthew eyes the receiver along the sideline, drawing the linebacker that way. Pettigrew is a running a route that will occupy the space that the linebacker is vacating. From another angle:

Here, you can clearly see the linebacker cheating right, so Stafford squares up and fires a bullet at the wide open Pettigrew. Unfortunately...

...he airmails it. The Lions are forced to punt, but have found a glaring defect in the Rams' defense.

And on the very last drive of the game, Stafford and the Lions took advantage of this new-found weakness and exploited it to perfection. 

Here, we see Stafford glancing to the right just for a split-second. The Rams defender (#58) is again trying to read Stafford's eyes. He hesitates, and even slightly drifts to the right. Behind him, Nate Burleson is cutting into the vacated space. There's not much room, but that is all a quarterback like Stafford needs. He fires a bullet just over the defender's hands leading to a big gain. 

First down. Six plays later, the Lions win the game. 

Next week, facing another aggressive defense in the Niners, Stafford will need to use his eyes again to keep the defenders guessing. However, with the 49ers' strong defensive line, Stafford will not be afforded the time to misdirect defenders that he had against the Rams. He will have to go through his progressions quicker, and make his misdirections more subtle. 

1 comment:

  1. This might have been the perfect game for Stafford to play before heading west for the 49ers. It's obvious the Rams (and Jeff Fisher) keyed in on some of Stafford's tendencies this game. So #9 and the coaching staff made the appropriate adjustments at halftime. And now the Lions have a full week of practice to switch things up.

    I'm a huge fan of learning lessons without picking up an L. Hopefully this makes them better.