Matthew Stafford is the NFL’s best QB against the blitz, which is bad news for the Bucs

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In Monday night’s wild-card game, the Arizona Cardinals made the bold decision to blitz Matthew Stafford heavily. He was blitzed on a season-high 50% of his dropbacks, but it proved ineffective.

Stafford picked apart the Cardinals’ defense, completing 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns – with three of his four incompletions being drops. And when the Cardinals did blitz him, he completed seven of his nine passes for a whopping 148 yards and a touchdown.

Again, it was a terrible decision by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and the Cardinals.

It’s not as if Stafford struggled against the blitz all year, either. According to Next Gen Stats, Stafford finished the year with +89.1 pass EPA (expected points added) against the blitz, which is the highest ever in the Next Gen Stats era.

For more evidence of just how good Stafford was against the blitz, he had the seventh-highest yards per attempt, third-best completion rate and scored the most fantasy points per attempt when blitzed this season.

That brings us to the Buccaneers, who are faced with a quandary in the divisional round against Stafford and the Rams. According to Pro Football Reference, no team in the NFL blitzed more than the Bucs.

They sent extra rushers on 40.8% of their defensive snaps, blitzing 45 times more than any other team in the league. For the most part it worked; the Bucs allowed the fifth-fewest points and fourth fewest net yards per pass attempt. But with Stafford coming to town, they may have to change their game plan.

Stafford wasn’t necessarily good under pressure this season. He had the 11th-worst PFF grade among starting quarterbacks when pressured, completing just 49.6% of his throws. He did average 7.9 yards per attempt under pressure, which was second among all starters, but he had 14 turnover-worthy plays and a passer rating of only 77.1.

Pressuring Stafford does typically yield success and lead to turnovers, but blitzing him rarely works. If the Buccaneers want to make him uncomfortable, they’ll need Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to generate pressure off the edge, with Vita Vea disrupting things on the interior.

Otherwise, Stafford is going to surgically dissect the defense when Devin White, Lavonte David or a defensive back is sent as an extra rusher. This is shaping up to be a fantastic chess match between Stafford and the Bucs defense.

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Rams snap counts: Akers is RB1, Weddle plays 19 snaps in return vs. Cardinals

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