Quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions swears he didn’t know his footwork was such a big deal until after Monday night’s win against the New York Giants. He wiggled his way out of the pocket and found Calvin Johnson for touchdowns twice in the first quarter, and in the third quarter he scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown while avoiding linebackers. “It’s been funny, (my teammates) are giving me a hard time as you would expect,” Stafford said this week. “I’m just glad that it worked out more than anything.” Today, Stafford and the Lions will face Carolina (1-0) in the Panthers’ home opener at Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. In an NFL where there are more dual-threat quarterbacks than ever, Stafford is considered a bit of a throwback as a pocket passer. He has rushed for just 394 yards in his six-year career, after running a 4.81-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. But in Monday’s 35-14 win against the Giants, he was nimble. On a 67-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, Stafford moved to his right, did a stop-and-go juke move on defensive end Damontre Moore and then found a wide-open Johnson. Later in the quarter, Stafford moved to his left as he flicked a 16-yard touchdown pass to Johnson. Perhaps his most agile rush came late in the third quarter. With the Lions leading 20-7 on third-and-goal from the 5, he scrambled out of the shotgun formation and made the same move on linebacker Jacquian Williams that he used on Moore earlier and scored a touchdown. “I just tried to buy some time and when I got out there I saw there was a bit of a hole,” Stafford said, “and I tried to go run and realized I wasn’t going to make it and decided to cut back and got in. As I came in, I saw (middle linebacker Jon) Beason at the last second and I was able to lower my pads and make sure I didn’t get knocked out.” It was an offseason of change for Stafford and the Lions. Jim Caldwell, the new head coach, hired Joe Lombardi to be the team’s offensive coordinator. Lombardi had spent seven years as the quarterbacks coach in New Orleans, and he brought parts of the Saints offense with him, though Lions and Panthers both agree there are only hints of it. Stafford is coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year. The Lions went a disappointing 7-9, and Stafford threw 19 interceptions with a completion percentage of 58.5. Caldwell said he could see Stafford’s focus on the new system as early as the spring.
Nimble Stafford has Panthers’ attention
Winston-Salem Journal | Sep 14