HomeFootball DirtStafford's near comeback falls short in Detroit against former team

Stafford’s near comeback falls short in Detroit against former team

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DETROIT (AP) — Everything was in place for Matthew Stafford.

The Los Angeles Rams quarterback was at Ford Field in front of a massive crowd with a chance to add to his long list of fourth-quarter comebacks — and ruin his former team’s shot at its first playoff win in 32 years.

This time, he couldn’t make it happen.

Stafford, who led 31 late rallies in his 12 years as Detroit’s quarterback, faced third-and-14 from the Lions 44 when he threw an incomplete pass. Sean McVay and the Rams then chose to punt.

“I trust our defense at that point,” Stafford said.

But Stafford could only watch as Jared Goff — the quarterback for whom he was traded in 2021 — sealed a 24-23 win Sunday night by passing for two first downs.

After that, it was a matter of jogging onto the field and hugging dozens of players and staffers from the franchise he represented for a dozen years after being the first overall draft choice in 2009.

“I’m happy for those players,” said Stafford, who finished with 367 yards passing and two touchdowns. “I’m happy for all those guys. This was a good playoff atmosphere and, obviously, a very loud crowd.”

The Rams are scheduled to play in Detroit again during the 2024 regular season. Stafford holds almost every franchise passing record and played through a lot of pain on bad teams.

When he took part in a tribute video for Calvin Johnson’s Hall of Fame induction in 2021, he received a huge ovation from the Detroit fans.

“I’ve just got to say this about (Stafford),” Lions offensive lineman Frank Ragnow said. “He’s one of the best, classiest dudes of all time. He was one of my favorite teammates.”

But Stafford understood as well as anyone that Sunday night wasn’t about his career in Detroit. Not for a fanbase that hadn’t seen a postseason victory since 1992.

“It’s a playoff game, so I knew I would get booed,” he said. “I’m not too worried about anyone’s personal feelings against me.”

In the first half, Stafford looked like the Super Bowl-winning quarterback he became in his first season with the Rams. He threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Puka Nacua and a 38-yarder to Tutu Atwell. Los Angeles scored on its first three possessions and the half ended two plays into the Rams’ fourth.

But Goff had been just as good, giving the Lions a 21-17 lead at the intermission. Between them, they completed 28 of 34 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns in the half.

In the second half, the defenses showed up. The Rams had a first down at the Detroit 11 late in the third quarter, but Stafford’s third-down pass to Cooper Kupp came up well short of the first down marker.

Los Angeles kicked a field goal to make it 24-20 and the defense forced a punt.

Stafford drove the Rams back down the field and a 22-yard pass to Nacua gave them a first down on the 13. A first-down run was stuffed, a screen pass only gained 3 yards, and Stafford’s third-down pass to Kupp was incomplete.

“In a game like this against an offense like that, you need to get to get touchdowns when you get down there,” Stafford said. “We just didn’t make enough plays in the red zone.”

Another field goal cut it to 24-23. and the Rams’ defense got a three-and-out — setting up the dramatic final drive for Stafford.

But after 12 years of failing to win a playoff game for Detroit, he couldn’t quite take one away from them.

“We gave a good football team a run for its money,” he said.

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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