Rams QB Matthew Stafford – Media Availability – December 26, 2021
Q: Matthew, you guys clinched the playoff spot, take control of the division. What’s your reaction to that?
A: Obviously, a great team win. Tough place to come in and play. This team’s played everybody that played this year really tough. We knew they were going to give us a big time fight. I thought our defense played outstanding. Run game was great. Less than spectacular in the pass game. Three turnovers is going to hurt us in a lot of games. It’s nice to come away with a win, there’s no doubt about that. I can play better. We can play better. So there’s always that.
Q: What were the issues for you today in terms of your struggles?
A: All different. First, once I snuck out, I wish I would have just run, get what I can get, get down. Kind of in between whether I was going to throw that to him and just yanked it. Terrible play, to be honest with you, and backed up. One of them was tipped. I have to live with those. I kind of got hit as I threw it. I still feel like there’s a throw out there — if I don’t get hit on that one, probably a throw out there to Van (Jefferson) for a big play. Missed Odell (Beckham Jr.) on another third and one, short play. That took a bunch of attention with Cooper (Kupp) and had a chance to hit Odell for a big one and short-changed that one too. I can definitely play way better. Frustrated a little bit with how I played. In the second half we needed some plays. We were able to do enough in the pass game to come away with the win.
Q: What is the play like when Brandon Powell, after kind of those struggles, you get a play like that. What is that like?
A: I’ve been with B.P. for a while. He was in Detroit with me. He’s got great ability, man. We went to Lambeau a couple years ago together, and he had a hundred receiving. He’s got great ability in him. Really happy for him to make a huge play in a huge game. A chance to clinch a playoff berth and take the lead back in the division, and Brandon Powell, who’s everything that’s right about NFL football. A guy who works his tail off. He’s bounced around a little bit trying to find a home. Just really happy. Happy for him, happy for his success. Just a huge play in the game. He was in there, when we were taking a knee at the end of the game, and I brought him in the huddle and said got to give it up for this guy. That seven points was the difference in the football game. So it was a huge play that we needed, and I’m just happy and proud of him.
Q: Matthew, what was your reaction as you were seeing him take that 60 yards to the house?
A: It was a great job setting it up. I mean, the whole return unit did a great job building the wall. B.P. pointed out the last guy we needed to block. I think (Michael) Hoecht got on him and blocked him. I think that’s who it was, and the rest was history. I’m just happy for him. It was a huge play for our team. The defense got a big time stop, and for him to take it back was a big time play for us.
Q: You’re in the playoffs. Something you haven’t done in five years. Can you enjoy it for the time, being that it’s been so long?
A: Yeah, we obviously guaranteed our self a spot. Would love to make that spot as good as we can make it from here on out and control where we sit in the seedings. I think it’s important to go into it playing good football. Today was good team ball, but a lot to clean up in the pass game for us. So I think there’s still more out there for us, but at the same time, I am excited knowing that after January 9th, there’s going to be some more ball.
Q: Matthew, just wrapping up this game, but you said coming here you want to be able to play on these big stages. It’s going to be pretty big the next two weeks with you guys having a chance to clinch the division. What kind of challenge do you think is ahead?
A: Obviously a good Baltimore team, a team that’s got a lot of talent. We’ll see if we can get Lamar (Jackson) or not, but if we do, he’s as good a player as there is in this league. Their defense is a little banged up, but still really well coached, got a great coordinator, they’re aggressive. It will be a lot of — a big challenge for us. An opponent that I’m not extremely familiar with. I’m not sure a lot of guys on our team are either. I’m not sure how many times we’ve played them in the past around here. Going to have to get to know them and go on the road across the country and play a tough team.
Q: Understand the offense had a few things they would have liked to have gone better, but with Sony Michel, do you feel like you’ve established an identity all together as a passing and running game?
A: I think he did an outstanding job. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our outstanding line as well. We had (Andrew Whitworth) Whit out, (Joseph) Noteboom was out. They’re shuffling all around. David Edwards starts the game at left tackle, bumps him to left guard. Alaric (Jackson) comes in. Coleman (Shelton) bumps from left guard to center. We don’t miss a beat, and those guys dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s the reason we won the game, the reason we scored 30 on offense because those guys up front played as well as they did. Opening holes for Sony, and then nobody really wants to tackle that guy on the second level. He’s heavy. Does a great job of playing low, giving not much to hit. And Darrell (Henderson Jr.) came in and had a nice runner there too as well. I’m excited for those guys, excited for the run game. Obviously, some things in the pass game we can do a whole lot better and get to where we want to be.
Q: Talk about Sony Michel. Can you talk about when he’s running the ball, how much patience do you see? He seems to find those gaps for good yards.
A: He does a great job reading it. He does a great job just trusting his keys. Our guys up front do a great job of finishing blocks. Sometimes it looks like there’s not much there, then our O guys strain a little bit more up front, finish a block, and he slides through a crease and makes a nice run. I think all of our backs are running it great. Sony’s doing a hell of a job. The last month he’s been really carrying the load with Darrell (Henderson) out some. Just happy for those guys, happy that the run game is doing as well as it is.
Q: This team has really risen to the occasion in the face of adversity over the last two or three weeks. How do you keep that going now through the rest?
A: It’s a mentally tough group. We’ve got a lot of guys that, whether it was COVID or injuries or lack of practice or meetings, don’t know if we’re going to have them or not, where we are on Zoom or what, it’s been a lot the last two, three weeks. And we’ve had adversity in games as well. Today was adverse as we can make it, turning the ball over as many times as we did, making it difficult on ourselves and our defense. But the guys in this locker room, they believe in each other. We all believe in each other. It goes a long way out there. Just happy that we keep building that mental toughness, keep putting ourselves in these testy spots and coming out of it. Would love to play a little bit better and have it a little bit more smooth sailing. This is NFL football, and things happen. We’ve just got to continue to keep playing, and our guys do a great job of that.
Q: Going undefeated in the month of December, how much does that go back to when you guys got together from the start of the season to where you guys are now?
A: It’s important to play your best football at the end of the year. As a team, we’ve done a nice job in the month of December. The rest will be played in 2022. We’ve got to go out there and make sure that those are as good or better than we’ve been playing. Being able to win on the road against a good team without playing your best is nice, but we know that those opportunities are fewer and fewer now. So we’ve got to play better and better. But proud of our team. Proud of the way we’ve been battling. Just got to clean some things up and play a little bit better.
Q: What are some of the anecdotal communications that you have to have or they have to have together to make that work in their own sort of sudden change?
A: I think we have some great leaders out there and some guys that have played enough football and understand, hey, I’ve played a lot of ball, and I’ve had all sorts of guys have to come into a game and play and finish a game out or start a game or whatever it is. I trust those guys every time we snap the ball that they’re going to do their assignment, just like they trust me and everyone else around them. That’s what this team is built on. That’s what offensive football is built on. Trusting the guys around you that he’s going to do a great job. Those guys do a great job of that. They’re all prepared when they come into the game and just let their physical abilities come to life. I try to communicate as much as I can with those guys, anything that I’m seeing, just to try to help them out.
Q: Then on the other side of the ball, when the defense is in those sudden change situations, and this week especially, do you see sort of a cool headed assertiveness from them? Where do you think that comes from if so?
A: Yeah, I think they played fantastic. We put them in some tough spots a couple times, and they made some huge plays. Whether it was holding them to three, turning the ball over in the red zone, I thought they did an outstanding job. I thought the usual cast of characters played outstanding. The guys that are our best players on defense. Then we had some guys that had to step up. T. Howard had to play a little bit more than he’s been playing, Reeder again, just because of Ernest. It was an all hands on deck operation in all phases of the game and all phases of our team. I was really proud of the way they played. It’s cool to be on a team with a defense that’s playing that well.
Q: Matthew, you talked about the O-line, Alaric Jackson specifically. What can you tell us about his performance today or him in general for the many people who aren’t familiar with him?
A: Yeah, I’ll have to go look at the tape and do all that to kind of dissect how he played today. But just anecdotally from how I was feeling in there, I felt like he stepped in and played great, didn’t miss a beat. He’s as steady and as even keel as they come for a rookie. It helps probably because he’s a giant human being and can move and is strong, so he knows he’s got that. When you wake up with that, you should feel pretty good about playing O-line. But he does a great job in there. He learns from a guy in Andrew Whitworth every single day and watches him practice and Joe Noteboom as well. Just gets to learn from those two guys, and that probably makes his job a little bit easier when it comes to game day.
Q: How much did the wins against Arizona, Seattle, and today against the Vikings, how much did each win benefit the team?
A: Hopefully it got us in the position we are today, but each week is its own test. Just because we won those three games doesn’t mean we’re going to go to Baltimore and get a win. We’ve got to go out there and prove it, got to go out there and do it ourselves. Really from here on out, however many games we end up playing, that’s what it boils down to, right? You’ve just got to show up, play as good a football as you can possibly play in that three-hour window and let the chips fall where they may. But I know, if we show up as a team and play as good as we possibly can, we’re a tough out. Things to clean up, things to be better at, especially from my standpoint, I know I’ll do everything I can to make sure that I play better next week and we have a better chance to win.