Friday, June 14, 2024

Rams QB Matthew Stafford turns in a vintage performance against Seahawks

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SEATTLE — Following an opening week performance that announced his return to form, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford shook off most talk of overcoming preseason expectations.

He had just thrown for 334 yards, completing 63.2% of his passes, his exact career average. Some of his throws were of the variety that made his name in Detroit some years ago – into tight windows, with unorthodox arm angles, sometimes both on the same play.

But given the chance following a 30-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks to respond to those who counted him out after an injury-plagued 2022, Stafford sidestepped, as he had done to several pass rushers over the previous 60 minutes of football.

No, he hadn’t put much thought into proving he was healthy. No, he didn’t pay any attention to offseason lists ranking him near the bottom of NFL quarterbacks, a year removed from a Super Bowl title.

Still, he couldn’t resist one little dig during his post-game comments.

“I think the cherry on top is getting to see y’all’s reaction to it,” Stafford said. “Just proud of these guys coming in here and not listening to what anybody else has to say about us and just go out and play.”

While the numbers looked like a standard Stafford stat line, your eyes could tell you this was a vintage game by the 15-year veteran.

The play that drew the most attention was his 21-yard third-down conversion to rookie Puka Nacua on the right sideline, staying in the pocket with a pass rush closing in to drop in a perfect pass. Side-arm throws to Tutu Atwell and Tyler Higbee across the middle of the field were high levels of difficulty.

“There’s a few in the game that are always a little bit more high-wire act than others,” Stafford said.

The one that stood out to Coach Sean McVay came in the third quarter. Stafford pump-faked to Nacua’s in route, drawing in the secondary, before finding Higbee down the sideline, dropping the ball in to the tight end for a 30-yard gain despite a hand in the quarterback’s face.

“He made a handful of really special throws that I thought he felt the game really well. But that one, if you look at when he let that go and what that picture looked like and what the rush looked like, that was some rare stuff,” McVay said. “That was definitely one of those, ‘Holy sh–, great play right there, man.’”

After missing eight games with a variety of injuries in 2022, after an offseason in which he was the subject of trade inquiries and was asked to consider restructuring his contract, after losing his top playmaker in receiver Cooper Kupp for the first four weeks of the season, Stafford played it cool when speaking to reporters.

“I just want to come out and play good football. I know I can when I’m healthy and I feel good. I felt good today,” Stafford said. “It wasn’t given to us, we got a bunch of guys that earned a bunch of spots on this team no matter what their status was – draft status, age – doesn’t matter.”

But in a quieter moment walking off the field, Stafford holstered imaginary pistols as he entered the tunnel, the gun slinger’s job done for a moment. And when it came time to address his teammates in the post-game locker room, he struck a more defiant tone.

“Whatever the (expletive) the outside world thought this (expletive) was going to look like, they don’t got a (expletive) clue,” he said. “We’re just getting started.”

BRIEFLY

McVay told reporters Monday that the Rams suffered a few minor injuries on Sunday. Right guard Joseph Noteboom sprained an ankle while Nacua took a hit to his ribs, safety Jason Taylor II hurt his groin and cornerback Akhello Witherspoon suffered rib and hip contusions. But none of those injuries are expected to impact availability against the San Francisco 49ers next weekend.

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