“That was really vintage Matthew Stafford right there,” Bevell said. “We kind of let him play today, and he just responded in a big way.”
Stafford played a huge part in Detroit’s 10-point, fourth quarter comeback. A key 96-yard drive that took up just over two minutes put the team in a spot to need just one or two more plays to come out with the victory. They did, and it was the first time since 2014 that Detroit overcame a 10-point deficit to come out victorious.
And it served as a pleasant reminder of just how fun of a player Matthew Stafford can be. His career used to be defined by games like this. He’d throw it a million times for a million yards every week, throwing caution to the wind and challenging the deep safeties almost once per drive. Though we saw flashes last year, we haven’t truly seen the gunslinger Matthew Stafford in at least three or four years.
And whether this was just random happenstance or Bevell finally unleashing Stafford, it made Lions football fun again, and reminded us all: Don’t take this man for granted. The future of this franchise is daunting and approaching rapidly, and as each day goes by, the rumblings of 2021 being a natural divorce point for Stafford and the Lions grows louder.
Of course, we don’t know if that’s how things will actually shake out. Stafford’s contract is still a bit hefty to throw out, and there are far too many unknown factors about 2021. Who will be the head coach? The general manager? Will the Lions be in a draft position to take a quarterback? Does Stafford still want to be in Detroit? Publicly he’s said all the right things, but you never truly know.
But those are questions for another day. For the next four weeks, put them aside. Instead, watch Matthew Stafford sidearm passes around (and sometimes into) flabby arms of 320-pound linemen. Watch Matthew Stafford drop a dime 60 yards down field to a rookie wide receiver. Watch a 32-year-old Stafford needle a 95-mile-per-hour fastball into the diving arms of a 72-year-old Danny Amendola. And when (if?) Kenny Golladay comes back, enjoy those two hooking up for some YOLO throws.
Football is supposed to be fun for fans, and even if the wins haven’t always been there, Matthew Stafford has made Lions football fun for the majority of his 12 years in Detroit. Hanging 400 yards on a good Bears defense is fun. Beating a rival team is fun. Kicking Chicago further down the pit of despair than we currently stand is fun. Hearing fans of other teams cry incredulously, “We’re worse than the Lions?” is fun.
But it could also all be gone in an instant.
As Detroit Lions fans, we’re not only cursed with a franchise that only recently realized that playoff appearances weren’t banner worthy, but we have to watch time and time again as this team’s most iconic players leave in sudden, dramatic fashion. Most recently, Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs were unceremoniously booted out of town and still take potshots at the Lions organization today. In Calvin Johnson’s final game as a Lion, he walked off Soldier Field with only ridiculous trade speculation clouding his future. Barry Sanders went out for a pack of cigarettes on training camp eve and never came back.
For Stafford, at least we get a chance to appreciate these final four games of the season knowing they could very well be his last in Detroit. A big part of me still hopes that it isn’t—and no one really knows with the future of this franchise currently in limbo—but either way, I’m going to enjoy these last four games as much as possible.
Because for the past 12 years, we’ve been lucky. Lucky to have such an exciting player on the field, and such a true professional off of it. Stafford’s legacy will certainly be complicated, but no one can deny he made the Lions more enjoyable to watch. So let’s enjoy these last four, then let the offseason decide his fate.