Rams QB Matthew Stafford credits teammates for stellar season as L.A. makes playoff push

It took until the Los Angeles Rams started stacking wins for folks to acknowledge what close followers have known all year: Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best football of his life.

Stafford’s Rams are 6-7 and first in line outside of the trio of NFC wild-card berths with a month to play. Considering where they began 2023, that alone is a major achievement — and much of it is related to Stafford’s performance.

A few elements have both aided and benefitted from Stafford’s performance this season. Los Angeles’ beleaguered offensive line has improved significantly, thanks in part to the additions of Steve Avila and Kevin Dotson. Stafford was afforded the back half of the 2022 season to get fully healthy from a neck injury. Rookie receiver Puka Nacua has picked up the pro game at an incredibly quick pace. And offensive wizard Sean McVay has maximized the potential of this collective group, primarily because he knows he can trust Stafford to get the job done.

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In typical Stafford fashion, the last person he’d credit for Rams’ surprise season is himself.

“If I’m playing good, that means the guys in front of me are blocking, the guys on the outside are getting open and catching it, and we’re running the ball efficiently,” Stafford told reporters on Wednesday, via The Associated Press. “It’s an unbelievable team sport. It takes everybody to do all of it. I’m just trying to make sure that when everything is right around me and my number is called, to go out there and do my job as best as I possibly can.”

Stafford has played remarkably well for the vast majority of 2023, but he’s been even better in the last three weeks. He’s tossed three or more touchdowns in each of the Rams’ last three games, is completing 63.1 percent of his passes and owns a 10-1 TD-INT ratio in that span, good for a passer rating of 111. Los Angeles has won two of its last three and ranks in the top three in points per game, yards per play, total yards per game, rushing yards and per game and giveaways.

This jump in production coincides with the return of running back Kyren Williams, who is averaging 110 scrimmage yards per game and is playing a store-brand version of Christian McCaffrey in Los Angeles’ offense. Nacua, meanwhile, broke 1,100 receiving yards last weekend, serving as the perfect complement to Cooper Kupp in an offense that can now attack secondaries with more than just the Super Bowl LVI MVP.

All of this is great, but none of it happens without Stafford, a strong-armed, precise quarterback who has relied on his years of experience to push this offense forward. McVay has every option at his disposal with Stafford executing his offense, and the results — especially recently — have been undeniable.

“He’s played like Matthew,” McVay told reporters on Wednesday. “He’s a great player, and you can see he’s feeling healthy. He’s doing a great job of distributing the football. Guys are competing hard around him and for him, and he has got great command of what he’s seeing. (The last two opponents) have definitely been two of the upper-echelon defenses.

“I think he’s played really well when you look at the fourth quarter in Seattle (in Week 11), and then the last 12 quarters when you combine Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore.”

Stafford went toe-to-toe with the AFC’s current top seed, Baltimore, in an overtime thriller in Week 14. He’ll face a less stingy defense in Washington this weekend, the start of a final push in which the Rams essentially need to win every remaining game to finish off a successful season.

Judging by how things have gone for Stafford and Co. over the last month, it’s fair to believe they’ll get the job done in Week 15.

“I’m always trying to improve, trying to get better week to week,” Stafford said. “Each game is unique, what’s asked of me. My job for that week is always to go out there and play at a high level, but sometimes it’s different. Just proud of the guys.”

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