Lions receiver Calvin Johnson set a new NFL record for single-season receiving yards on Saturday night, but he’s not the only Lion who’s getting his name in the record book this season. As we noted last week, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is closing in on the all-time NFL record for pass attempts in a season.
But Stafford said after Saturday night’s game that the attempts record is a function of the Lions having to throw a lot of passes in the fourth quarters of games that they’re losing, and Stafford would much rather be in a situation where he’s handing off while the Lions are protecting a lead in the fourth quarter.
“That attempts is a little bit of a product of being behind in some games late which is obviously not where we want to be,” Stafford said.
Stafford has thrown 685 passes this season, so he’ll almost certainly break Drew Bledsoe’s NFL record of 691 next week against the Bears. But he’s right that he’s throwing more passes this year because the Lions are trailing more in the fourth quarter: In fact, Stafford actually threw more passes in the first, second and third quarters last year (492) than he has this year (429). The difference is that last year the Lions were a winning team, and Stafford only threw 168 passes in the fourth quarter. This year the Lions are a losing team and Stafford has thrown 244 passes in the fourth quarter.
Stafford is also closing in on a second straight 5,000-yard passing season, something he had previously identified as a goal. But after Saturday night’s game, Stafford noted that he wasn’t approaching 5,000 yards the way he wanted to.
“Five thousand yards, I meant I’d love to be able to do it again, but I’d love for it to come with a win. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win today,” Stafford said.
With Stafford and Megatron, it’s clear that Detroit believes it’s going to have one of the best pass-catch combinations in football for years to come. Now the question is whether the Lions can improve the rest of the roster, so that Stafford and Megatron aren’t putting up eye-popping numbers in a losing cause.