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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Five-star answer: Ryan won't stop Stafford

By Tim MacMahon

Five-star question: Will the Cowboys hold Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford under his average of 325.6 yards passing per game?

You can count on Rob Ryan to come up with schemes to confuse a young quarterback. He’ll surely find a way to stop, or at least slow down, Matthew Stafford’s early-season success.

Right?

Don’t be so sure.

The history favors Stafford in this quarterback-coordinator matchup. His best performance as a pro came against Ryan in Detroit’s win over Cleveland a couple of years ago. Stafford set rookie records with 422 yards – since broken by Cam Newton – and five touchdowns, including the game-winning score with no time remaining after suffering a shoulder injury.

Yes, Ryan clearly has more talent to work with in Dallas than he did in Cleveland, especially when it comes to pass-rushers. The Browns didn’t have a DeMarcus Ware-type talent wreaking havoc off the edge.

But Stafford’s supporting cast is much stronger, too. Calvin Johnson has continued his development into an elite receiver, and the Lions have invested first-round picks in tight end Brandon Pettigrew and running back Jahvid Best, the second and third options in a potent passing game.

The Cowboys rank a 12th in passing defense (226.7 yards per game), which is particularly respectable considering their injury problems at cornerback. But Stafford is better than Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith and Rex Grossman. And no receiver the Cowboys have covered is close to Johnson’s class.

Expect another average day by Stafford’s standards.