Matthew Stafford delivers when it counts in 27-24 road victory over Colts
There were no long touchdown passes. One short-armed throw was intercepted. His almost perfect passer rating of a week ago tumbled into mere mortal territory.
But the Rams’ reasoning for trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford was on full display late in the game Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
The situation: Fourth quarter. Rams trailing.
In 12 NFL seasons, Stafford had engineered 38 game-winning drives. That ranks tied for eighth all time, according to profootballreference.com.
With all-time leader Peyton Manning in attendance at the stadium he all but built during his Hall of Fame career, Stafford did his thing.
He erased a four-point deficit with a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp. On the next series, he directed a drive that ended with a tiebreaking 38-yard field goal by Matt Gay that gave the Rams a 27-24 victory in front of 63,076 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Rams receiver has developed chemistry with Matthew Stafford, who completed nine passes to Kupp, including two for touchdowns
“I was as calm as I could be,” Stafford said. “I knew there were plays in the game, ‘Shoot I wish I’d had this. I wish I would have thrown that ball there,’ but at that point in the game it’s do whatever it takes to win.”
Stafford felt right at home in the situation — and in the stadium. In 2016, his last time playing here, he engineered a comeback victory for the Detroit Lions.
The Rams gave him another opportunity when the punt unit botched a snap that resulted in a Colts touchdown and a 21-17 deficit.
After Stafford had put the Rams ahead with the touchdown pass to Kupp, the next time the quarterback trotted onto the field, the score was tied, 24-24, and he harked to the game against the Colts five years ago.
“Felt like why not go do it again?” he said.
Rams coach Sean McVay, who sent Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks to the Lions for Stafford, also was confident in the veteran’s ability to come through.
“He relishes those moments,” McVay said, “and he was at his best when his best was required.”
The victory was not the free-flowing, thrill-a-minute spectacle the Rams produced in their season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears. It was an important one, however, for a Rams team that has designs on playing in Super Bowl LVI in February at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams are trying to become the second consecutive team to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers accomplished the feat last season.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers visit SoFi Stadium next week in a measuring-stick game for Stafford and the Rams.
Stafford shined in his first SoFi Stadium appearance, committing nary an error against the Bears. He put the deep touchdown pass back into McVay’s playbook in spectacular and efficient fashion.
That element, and many others, were absent Sunday in a game that featured several dropped and misfired passes.
Stafford completed 19 of 30 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. He connected with Kupp nine times for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
“I definitely wasn’t at my best,” Stafford said.
Not in the third quarter, when the Rams went three and out on three consecutive possessions. But Stafford returned to character when it counted most.
“Like any great quarterback, their leadership stands out when tough times hit,” said running back Sony Michel, who replaced injured Darrell Henderson late in the game and carried the load during the winning drive.
Kupp said offensive players are not thinking about Stafford’s knack for engineering comebacks while they are in the huddle.
“It’s more just his demeanor, how he has control of the offense and really just the understanding and belief we have in each other,” Kupp said.
Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
The Rams’ defense played well for the second consecutive game. The unit twice turned back the Colts on drives inside the five-yard line, and forced them to settle for a field goal on another.
Inside linebacker Troy Reeder intercepted a Carson Wentz shovel pass to end one threat. And, after the Rams knocked Wentz out of the game because of an ankle injury late, cornerback Jalen Ramsey sealed the victory by intercepting a pass by Jacob Eason.
Ramsey was positioned to make the clinching play after Stafford engineered a 12-play drive that culminated with Matt Gay’s field goal with a little more than two minutes left.
How high was Ramsey’s confidence level in Stafford’s ability to stage a comeback?
“Extremely high,” Ramsey said. “Just his track record of what he’s been able to do in the fourth quarter.
“We know that like in the back of our mind. We don’t try to think about it … but yeah, the confidence is definitely there.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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