No player entering Super Wild Card weekend is under more perceived pressure than Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
L.A. traded for the veteran quarterback this offseason, believing he was the final piece of the puzzle to hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. After a rollercoaster season, now is the time for Stafford to prove he can get the Rams over the hump.
Despite the presumption that he’s under pressure, Stafford said Thursday he’s not feeling the weight as the Rams head towards their Monday night postseason showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.
“Every time I step on the field, I’m proving myself, whether it’s a preseason game or a regular-season game, practice, a playoff game,” he said, via ESPN. “I want to go out there and play well. This is just another opportunity to do that.”
In 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford’s teams went 0-3 in postseason appearances. Stafford’s three straight losses to begin his playoff career are tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history behind Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and Andy Dalton (4) — Tittle and Dalton never have won a playoff game — and tied for the longest streak by a No. 1 overall pick (Peyton Manning).
Rams coach Sean McVay said he doesn’t think the 33-year-old quarterback needs to win a playoff game to prove his worth.
“I think that he’s got an established résumé,” McVay said. “I think that’s something you want to be able to do. He was instrumental in leading us to our first divisional title that we’ve had since ’18 and that’s a big deal, but now it’s the next step. But I think his body of work speaks for itself and I don’t think you can just confine it into, ‘Oh he hasn’t won a playoff game.'”
This season, the Rams offense has had peaks and valleys based on Stafford’s play. The QB tossed the second-most touchdowns in the NFL this season (41) behind only Tom Brady (43). But Stafford also tied rookie Trevor Lawrence for the most interceptions in the league with 17. The Rams are 9-0 this season when Stafford has had a 100-plus passer rating and 3-5 in games his passer rating has been below 100. The Rams are also 6-0 when Stafford doesn’t throw a pick (6-5 when he has had one or more INT).
Throughout his career, Stafford has churned out yards and made splash plays. But the big wins have always eluded the QB. Now he’s on a team of stars with a chance to rewrite the narrative.
The playoffs are where quarterbacks cement their legacy. And no one can do more to change the perception than Stafford could with a sterling postseason run. That quest begins Monday night.
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