Li­ons’ Stafford fires back over Gan­non blast­ing him as ‘over­paid’

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - DAVE BIR­KETT

DETROIT — The Stat King has a mes­sage for his lat­est critic: Your opin­ion is none of my con­cern.

Detroit Li­ons quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford re­sponded to crit­i­cism lobbed his way this week by for­mer NFL MVP and CBS Sports an­a­lyst Rich Gan­non, who called him “over­paid” and said he piles up big pass­ing num­bers late in games.

“I don’t need to an­swer to Rich Gan­non,” Stafford said Thurs­day.

Gan­non said on the show NFL Mon­day QB that Stafford’s early game strug­gles are “a big rea­son why” the Li­ons are 3-5 and in last place in the NFC North en­ter­ing Sun­day’s show­down with the Chicago Bears.

The Li­ons have fallen be­hind by dou­ble dig­its in the first half of each of their last two games and in four of their five losses this year.

Stafford has nine turnovers in those losses, and just one in the Li­ons’ three wins.

“The guy is over­paid,” Gan­non said. “He’s been one of the high­est-paid quar­ter­backs over the last four or five years and he’s a stat king. He picks up a lot of yards and pro­duc­tion in garbage time.”

Gan­non is the sec­ond quar­ter­back-turned-an­a­lyst to chide Stafford for his play in the past month.

In Oc­to­ber, CBS an­a­lyst Boomer Esi­a­son said Stafford is more “locker room lawyer” than “locker room leader” and com­pared him to Eli Man­ning.

Stafford said he doesn’t hear most of the slights di­rected his way and doesn’t know why he’s be­come a light­ning rod for crit­i­cism by for­mer quar­ter­backs.

“I don’t know,” Stafford said. “I mean, they’re free to talk about

what­ever they want to talk about and how­ever they want to talk about any­body. I don’t re­ally pay any at­ten­tion to it. Ob­vi­ously, I didn’t know it hap­pened, so maybe that makes them mad, I don’t know? I don’t re­ally have any an­swer for you. It doesn’t bother me. I an­swer to the guys in my locker room or our coaches and all that way be­fore any­body else.”

Stafford is com­plet­ing a ca­reer­high 67.8 per cent of his passes through eight games and has 2,111 yards pass­ing and 14 touch­downs with six in­ter­cep­tions.

Those num­bers are in line with what Stafford has done the last four sea­sons, when he has av­er­aged 4,323 yards, 27 touch­downs and 11 in­ter­cep­tions a year.

Gan­non’s com­ments do have some merit, as Stafford has av­er­aged about 25 per cent more pass­ing yards in the fourth quar­ter of games (78.4 yards) than he has in the first three quar­ters (62 yards per quar­ter).

That dif­fer­ence is partly a prod­uct of play­ing from be­hind, and Stafford’s num­bers ac­tu­ally com­pare favourably to the num­bers the divi­sion’s best quar­ter­back, Aaron Rodgers, has put up in Green Bay. Rodgers av­er­ages

69.8 yards in each of the first three quar­ters and 108.3 yards in the fourth quar­ter and over­time this year.

Crit­i­cism aside, Stafford said he and the of­fence have to play bet­ter than they’ve played the last two weeks if the Li­ons are go­ing to get back in the play­off hunt.

The Li­ons have scored just two touch­downs in losses to the Min­nesota Vik­ings and Seat­tle Sea­hawks, and are com­ing off a game against the Min­nesota Vik­ings in which Stafford took a ca­reer-high 10 sacks and the Li­ons failed to reach the end zone.

As for the Li­ons’ strug­gles early in games, Stafford said “it’s on our lists of musts ev­ery week” to start fast.

“And that’s as a team,” he said. “I’m a big part of that team, I un­der­stand that. And do­ing what I can do to help us get points. Con­vert on third downs, hit­ting big shots when you get it. Just make sure that when we have those op­por­tu­ni­ties from the open­ing kick­off we’re ready to go and the more I can hit the throws and make the right checks, all that kind of stuff, the bet­ter we’re go­ing to be.”

CAR­LOS GON­ZA­LEZ MIN­NEAPO­LIS STAR TRI­BUNE/TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

The Detroit Li­ons’ Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times on Sun­day.

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