From a statistical perspective, Matthew Stafford is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history. The former No. 1 overall pick has thrown for 49,995 yards in his career, putting him at No. 12 on the all-time list. He is also No. 11 in completions (4,302) and No. 12 in passing touchdowns (323).
Playoff success has been elusive for Stafford, though. From 2009-2020 with the Lions, he only reached the postseason three times, and he never managed to win a playoff game, losing to the Saints (2012), Cowboys (2015) and Seahawks (2017).
Now, as a member of the Rams, Stafford is hoping to snap his winless streak and make a deep run through the NFC playoff bracket. Los Angeles coach Sean McVay has expressed confidence in Stafford, saying that he was “as instrumental as anybody” in helping the team go 12-5 on its way to the NFC West title.
But should McVay and the Rams be more concerned about Stafford’s lack of playoff experience? Let’s dig into his previous losses and overall numbers.
Jan. 7, 2012: Saints 45, Lions 28
Stafford kicked off his playoff debut with a bang, throwing tight spirals to multiple receivers on his opening drive and ultimately hitting Will Heller for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Detroit was unable to take advantage of multiple New Orleans turnovers — one fumble recovery may have been returned for a touchdown if the play wasn’t blown dead — but it still held a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.
The Saints then rattled off 14 straight points to start the second half, but Stafford answered with a one-yard touchdown run before the end of the third quarter. Darren Sproles scampered into the end zone to push New Orleans’ lead up to 10, and after Stafford was picked off by Jabari Greer, Drew Brees found a wide-open Robert Meachem down the sideline to put the Saints up by three scores with less than eight minutes to go. The Lions simply didn’t have enough time to catch up.
Stafford (28 of 43, 380 passing yards, four total touchdowns, two interceptions) and Calvin Johnson (12 receptions, 211 yards, two touchdowns) had monster performances, but Detroit’s defense couldn’t stop Brees (33 of 43, 466 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions).
Jan. 4, 2015: Cowboys 24, Lions 20
In his next playoff game, Stafford again threw for a touchdown on his first drive, finding Golden Tate for a 51-yard touchdown. Reggie Bush then ran for a touchdown late in the first quarter to give Detroit a 14-0 lead. Dallas wide receiver Terrance Williams exploded for a 76-yard catch-and-score before the end of the first half, but the Lions’ defense largely held the Cowboys’ offense in check over the first 30 minutes.
The Lions took the ball to start the second half looking to extend their 17-7 lead, but Stafford’s first pass of the third quarter got tipped at the line and picked off. Fortunately for Detroit, Dan Bailey missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, and Matt Prater drilled a 37-yarder on the ensuing drive. The Cowboys scored on a short DeMarco Murray run to cut the deficit to six heading into the final frame.
After a Bailey field goal early in the fourth quarter, the Lions got the ball to midfield. And then… controversy. On a third-and-1 play, Stafford threw a pass toward Brandon Pettigrew, who was being face guarded by Anthony Hitchens. The Cowboys linebacker was flagged for pass interference, but the officiating crew picked up the flag, announcing that there was no penalty on the play. Additionally, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant was not flagged for running onto the field without his helmet.
Facing a tough fourth-down decision, Lions coach Jim Caldwell elected to punt, but Sam Martin shanked the ball for a whopping total of 10 yards. Starting with great field position, Romo drove the Cowboys down inside the Lions’ 10-yard line and found Williams with an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Dallas its first lead of the game.
On their final drive of the game, the Lions pushed the ball into Cowboys territory, but DeMarcus Lawrence sacked and stripped Stafford on a fourth-and-3 play to seal the victory.
Stafford completed 28 of his 42 pass attempts for 323 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Jan. 7, 2017: Seahawks 26, Lions 6
This was just a total stinker for the Lions’ offense. Detroit was limited to 231 total yards on 50 plays and managed only one field goal in each half. It failed to run a single play inside Seattle’s 33-yard line.
Stafford threw for 205 yards and was sacked three times. He also had 15 of the Lions’ 49 total rushing yards. Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls gashed the Lions’ defense for 161 yards and one touchdown, allowing Seattle to maintain possession for nearly 37 minutes.
Matthew Stafford playoff stats
In his three playoff games, Stafford has racked up 908 passing yards (63.2 completion percentage), five total touchdowns and three interceptions. Those aren’t terrible numbers, and it’s worth noting that the Lions were competitive in two of the three contests. It’s also difficult not to wonder what would have happened in 2015 if the pass interference call had stood.
However, Stafford does deserve some blame for Detroit’s postseason failures. Across those three games, the Lions were outscored 68-20 in the second halves. He has been able to build leads, but if Stafford wants to capture his first playoff win, he will need to step up when it matters most.
|Completion %||63.2 (74-117)|
|Yards per attempt||7.8|
|Yards per game||302.7|