Lions' Stafford delivers off and on field

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Benched last week.

Brilliant this week.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns — his best showing in both categories since 2013 — in the Lions' 37-34 overtime victory over the Bears on Sunday at Ford Field.

Stafford's best performance, though, might've actually come before the opening kick, when he gathered all his teammates around and delivered a rousing speech.

That's the leadership that fans may have viewed as missing from Stafford, but not his fellow Lions.

"He had a big speech pregame and got everybody fired up, and he's the leader of this team and he led us to a win tonight," said kicker Matt Prater, who booted the winning field goal in overtime. "I think that showed what kind of leader he is. He did a good job putting everyone together and on the same page."

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Stafford found four different receivers for touchdown passes — Lance Moore in the first quarter, Tim Wright and Golden Tate in the second quarter and Calvin Johnson late in the fourth quarter.

Most notable, though, were the deep balls.

Lions coaches have talked for weeks about finding "chunks" of yardage on single plays, and on Sunday afternoon, Stafford and offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi — coaching from the press box for the first time this season — finally delivered.

Stafford completed seven passes or 20 yards or more, and it would've been eight if not for a questionable offensive pass-interference penalty.

The dink-and-dunk show was gone.

"Can't give enough credit to Matt for the game he played," said Moore, who had five catches for 106 yards. "He played a heck of a game. His intestinal fortitude is right up there, man. Taking off and running, taking hits, standing therein the pocket and delivering darts to us. It was fun to be a part of and it's definitely fun to watch him do it."

Said Tate, who had six catches for 40 yards: "9 made some big plays. You could see 9 had fire in him today. He had that fire, and we ate off that. We gathered around him and we played tough, hard football."

Stafford was benched in last week's ugly loss to the Cardinals. Coach Jim Caldwell told him at halftime that the next pick he through, he would be benched.

Caldwell stayed true to his word in the third quarter; when Stafford threw another interception, he was out.

Caldwell, though, never suggested Stafford would be out as the starting quarterback. He shut down any talk of that after the game, and again all week during practice.

Stafford is the guy, and on Sunday, he talked the talk — and walked the walk, even turning in several impressive and pivotal scrambles, tacking the hits rather than sliding. He even was at the center of the postgame celebratory huddle.

But it was his pregame antics that had teammates heaping praise on him.

"It was the most memorable," Prater said, when asked if this was the first time this season Stafford addressed the team before kickoff. "It was awesome.
"It made me want to play something else besides kicker."

The Lions host the Eagles at 12:30 p.m. Thursday (Fox).