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Matthew Stafford outdueled Patrick Mahomes

Yes, it was a loss, but Stafford was undoubtedly the better quarterback on Sunday.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into this article, let me be clear: I know the Detroit Lions lost this game, and I know on the surface Matthew Stafford outdueling Patrick Mahomes means nothing because the Chiefs were the team that came away with the win.

But the Detroit Lions quarterback absolutely outdueled Patrick Mahomes on Sunday.

The reigning league MVP strolled into Ford Field for his first NFL game in a dome. His talent is absolutely unquestionable, as he and the Chiefs offense are poised to break all sorts of yardage, touchdown, scoring records this season.

Matthew Stafford came into this game with the same questions he’s always had: Can he compete with the league’s best? Will he step up in big moments? Can he ever be a quarterback that can not only win playoff games, but be the guy to finally bring the Lombardi to Detroit?

Stafford didn’t answer any of those questions on Sunday, but he was undoubtedly the better quarterback on the field that afternoon.

Basic stats

It doesn’t take a football genius to see who was the better statistical quarterback on Sunday.

Stafford: 21-for-34 (61.8%), 291 yards (8.6 YPA), 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 118.6 passer rating
Mahomes: 24-for42 (57.1%), 315 yards (7.5 YPA), 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 81.0 passer rating

Stafford finished higher in literally every measurement, and it wasn’t particularly close either. Mahomes’ edge only came in two statistical areas: rushing yards (54 to 18) and turnovers (0 to 1).

That last stat is an important one. Stafford’s red zone fumble undoubtedly cost the Lions three crucial points, while Mahomes was one of the few Chiefs players who didn’t fumble on Sunday, and he still hasn’t thrown an interception this season.

Advanced stats

When it came to the deep ball, it was surprisingly Stafford who came out on top Sunday. The Chiefs came into the game with the most passing plays of 40+ yards, but Mahomes failed to complete a deep pass for the first time in his career, per Next Gen Stats:

Meanwhile, Stafford was connecting on passes just about everywhere on the field:

As you can see, Stafford was 3-of-6 on passes 20 or more yards downfield

According to Next Gen Stats, Stafford completion percentage was 7.2 percent higher than his “expected completion percentage” which is a measure of the completion probability of each throw he made. In other words, Stafford completed 7.2 percent more of his passes than he should have. That mark was fourth-best in the NFL this week. Meanwhile, Mahomes’s percentage difference was just 1.4, ranking him 13th this week.

Now, when you say one quarterback outdueled the other, it’s not exactly fair to each passer. The Lions pass defense is undoubtedly better than the Chiefs pass defense, so Mahomes had the tougher task on Sunday.

But at the same time, it’s not exactly fair to give Mahomes all the credit for the win and place this game as just another example of Stafford not winning the big one. Both quarterbacks were phenomenal in the fourth quarter.

Patrick Mahomes went 8-for-14 for 106 yards and added another 27 on the ground—including a 15-yard scramble that kept the Chiefs alive on a fourth-and-9.

Matthew Stafford was just as good, if not better. He went 8-for-11 in the fourth quarter for 105 yards and a go-ahead score with just 2:31 remaining. On that drive, he converted a third-and-2, laid a perfect deep ball to Marvin Hall in their first game together connection and gave Kenny Golladay a great ball to go up and grab for the touchdown.

The overall point being here that Matthew Stafford deserved the stage just as much as Patrick Mahomes on Sunday. Narratives are a funny thing. This will ultimately go down as another loss in the ever-popular “Stafford’s record against winning teams” stat, but a fourth-and-long stop from the defense would have completely changed everything.

Pull away all the narratives and the final score and all the surrounding noise. Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes went toe-to-toe on Sunday and it was a joy to watch.