By the time the Lions made quarterback Matthew Stafford the first overall pick of the 2009 draft, Tom Brady had already won three Super Bowls.
When Stafford marches into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday with the Rams, he will face Brady, who is on a quest for his eighth Lombardi Trophy.
Brady had already won six Super Bowl championships with Bill Belichick when he gambled that the grass was greener in Tampa with Bruce Arians. And it sure has been for him.
And it has been for Stafford as well with the Rams, now that he has gotten the playoff monkey off his back, beating the Cardinals for his first career playoff win.
“Sometimes,” Stafford told the Detroit Free Press following the Jan. 30, 2021 blockbuster trade that sent him from Detroit to the Rams, “It’s not the perfect storybook ending in the same place.”
All he has to do in this NFC divisional round game is slay the GOAT quarterback — who is 14-2 in this round, who is 35-11 in the playoffs and who is older than every head coach remaining other than Arians (69), Andy Reid (63) and Sean McDermott (47).
Stafford recognizes the burden on him to both negotiate a battle-hardened defense, which has gotten key cogs back healthy, and to duel Brady at the same time — and Stafford isn’t shying away from the reality of it all. It helps having Cooper Kupp on your side, right?
“You know you’re gonna have to go out there and score points and enough to compete with a team that’s led by Tom,” Stafford said.
In a nutshell, Stafford must continue to master the blitz, because of Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ penchant for bringing the heat. Brady must continue to get the ball out of his hands quicker than Wild Bill Hickock before Von Miller, Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd get to him behind his hobbled offensive line.
“I’ve always wanted to play in those big games, I feel like I will excel in those situations,” he said.
UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis has become a social media sensation once again, following her recent epic performance celebrating “Black Excellence.” Dennis, a 21-year-old senior, began her floor routine Saturday set to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA,” and later included