Matthew Stafford has been at his best in difficult down-and-distances

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It doesn’t take much effort to realize just how big of an upgrade Matthew Stafford has been at quarterback for the Rams. He’s met every expectation in Los Angeles, even the highest ones set for him before the season began, getting off to a hot start through six weeks.

He’s the league leader in ESPN’s QBR metric (75) and already has 16 touchdown passes with 1,838 yards through the air, putting him on pace for more than 5,000 yards this season. But where the biggest difference between Stafford and Jared Goff has been is on second and third down with the offense needing 7-plus yards.

Those are typically seen as passing situations, which gives the defense an edge, but Stafford has picked opponents apart on those downs-and-distances. According to Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Stats, Stafford is completing 74.2% of his passes and averaging 12.5 yards per attempt on non-first downs and needing 7-plus yards. His 12.5 yards per attempt are nearly double the league average of 7.3 Y/A.

Additionally, half of his pass attempts have gone for first downs, which is best in the NFL by almost 10%.

To dive a bit deeper into the numbers, Stafford is 10-for-12 with 281 yards and one touchdown on third-and-10 or more yards, posting a near-perfect 146.5 passer rating on those plays. Nine of his 10 completions went for first downs, too. On second-and-10-plus yards, he’s 23-for-31, throwing for 349 yards with 14 first downs picked up.

On all third-downs, he’s completed 27 of 43 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns, with 24 of those completions going for first downs.

No matter the situation, his numbers look good. But specifically on third down, he’s been better than the league average and one of the top quarterbacks in the league. That’s a welcome change after Goff struggled on third down a season ago. On third-and-10 or more, Goff was 18-for-34 last season, picking up just nine first downs – the same number of first downs Stafford has gained in the same situations this season in nine fewer games.

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