Lions’ Stafford coming to MetLife Stadium healthy this time
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The NFL’s highest-paid player is coming to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants again, and this time Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions doesn’t have an injured finger on his throwing hand.
Stafford showed why he got a $135 million contract in late August when he threw four touchdown passes to rally the Lions to a 35-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener.
The 29-year-old Stafford will get a chance for a little payback against the Giants (0-1) on Monday night in a nationally televised game.
Last season, Stafford and company dropped a 17-6 decision in a game here that featured another great one-handed touchdown catch by Odell Beckham Jr. and a lot of good defense by the Giants.
Stafford threw for 273 yards and an interception in that game, but could not get the ball into the end zone.
“Obviously, I’m sure they’re looking at that game some, and kind of figuring out what we did well, what we didn’t do well,” Stafford said. “Had some opportunities to score and didn’t come away with points, so there’s mistakes in every game, got to find a way to overcome them and we’ll learn from the ones in the past.”
The Giants are coming off a 19-3 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. Eli Manning and the offense were limited to 233 yards playing without Beckham, who has been nursing a sprained ankle since Aug. 21.
“As soon as he’s cleared, we’ll welcome him back,” said coach Ben McAdoo, who saw Beckham practice for the first time since the injury this week.
Even more important for New York will be containing Stafford. He engineered yet another fourth-quarter comeback, something he did an NFL-record eight times last season.
“He thrives on that kind of pressure. He enjoys it,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s been able to obviously calm things down when everything speeds up for everybody else. He gets in a zone during that time and has been able to deliver.”
While he doesn’t look like much of a runner, the Giants said that Stafford knows how to extend plays.
“He’s like Houdini,” Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn said. “He gets himself out of a lot of situations that you may think he’s supposed to get sacked on. Next thing you know he is throwing the ball downfield making a play.”
Lions receiver Golden Tate had eight catches for 122 yards against the Giants last season.
Here are some things to watch in the game:
GIANTS O-LINE: The line that struggled last season did nothing to show it was better this season. The run game was non-existent and Manning was under a lot of pressure. Adding to the woes, right tackle Bobby Hart sprained his right ankle and will have to be watched. It could cause a major reshuffling of the line with one solution being Justin Pugh moving from left guard to Hart’s spot. It’s where he started as a rookie.
COAST TO COAST: The Detroit Lions signed punter Jeff Locke, a little more than a week after he was having lunch with friends in Santa Monica, California. Locke said his agent texted him, “Be ready,” soon after Detroit’s previous punter Kasey Redfern had a knee injury early in his NFL debut. Locke spent time with Indianapolis this preseason after four seasons with Minnesota. The Lions are without standout punter Sam Martin because he is on the reserve/non-football injury list. Caldwell refuses to discuss how it happened.
BALANCE: The Giants’ defense has been carrying this team that past two seasons and the season opener was no different. Dallas ran 71 plays, in large part because New York’s offense could not get anything going. It was 4 of 12 on third down, ran 51 plays and held the ball for just under 26 minutes.
DYNAMIC DEBUT: The Giants will have to watch Kenny Golladay , who had two TD catches last week. That may open up passing lanes for Tate and Marvin Jones along with tight end Eric Ebron and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. “Kenny is a game-breaker type of guy,” Tate said. “It makes that opposing team scouting him and covering him. You got to pick your poison. Who you going to double-cover?”
RUNNING: Don’t expect much running. New York was limited to 35 yards on 12 carries in the season opener. Detroit had 82 yards on 27 carries. That’s roughly a 3.0 yard average for both teams.