Jim Bob Cooter's offensive influence has been massive for Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford completed 27 of 38 passes for 337 yards and five touchdowns against the Eagles on Thanksgiving. AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

DETROIT -- Jim Bob Cooter was going to call a play with a bunch of slants. Then, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said, the offensive coordinator changed his mind.

He wanted to be more aggressive. Take a shot, go four verticals and let his quarterback and his best receiver, Calvin Johnson, make a play. It was, in many ways, the epitome of what has changed with the Detroit Lions over the past three weeks and what was missing under Joe Lombardi before.

"I was fired up for it," Stafford said. "I loved it."

The result was a 25-yard Stafford-to-Johnson touchdown, the third of five Stafford touchdown tosses Thursday and a play reminiscent of how the Lions used to look when they were one of the most explosive groups in the league a couple of years ago.

Stafford has looked more comfortable and confident with Cooter's plays, personnel usage and, well, everything when it comes to the Detroit Lions over the past three weeks.

That is not coincidental when it comes to Stafford's improvement or that the Lions are 3-0 since Cooter could really influence the offense. He couldn't do much the week he took over as he was promoted hours before the Lions boarded a flight to London to face Kansas City -- a game Detroit was blown out in.

Stafford and Cooter have a clear connection -- something started when Cooter was hired to be Stafford's quarterbacks coach in 2014. They spent countless hours together, Cooter learning what Stafford likes in plays, likes in personnel, in everything that is working well now.

And as Cooter becomes more familiar with calling plays, the mind-meld between quarterback and coordinator has grown. Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who is with Stafford and Cooter daily, said the two see football the "same way."

It has been critical.

"There's been a lot of change and I just think it's sometimes, marriages work because people are on the same page," Orlovsky said. "Not that they weren't before, but some marriages are good, some marriages are great."

So far, the Cooter-Stafford three-week-old relationship following the bye has continued in its clear honeymoon phase.

Some of the changes are easily identifiable. The Lions have taken more downfield shots to Johnson in the three games since Cooter has been able to influence play design, play calls and game flow. The Lions are using fewer personnel shifts -- under Lombardi it seemed as if the Lions were changing personnel by the play -- and are lining up all of their backs and receivers all over the field.

Included is Golden Tate as a fullback, Johnson in the slot, Eric Ebron out wide, Brandon Pettigrew in the slot and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick in every position possible.

The creativity is somewhat similar to what Scott Linehan did with the offense and Stafford during his time with the Lions before he was fired along with Jim Schwartz following the 2013 season. And that's when Stafford was at his best.

Between moving the pieces and trusting the quarterback and his receiver, it opened up the Lions' total offense -- from 287 yards against Green Bay in Week 10 to 375 yards in Week 11 against Oakland to 430 yards against an Eagles team that also allowed five touchdown passes to Jameis Winston less than a week ago.

"I mean, you can't do the same thing over and over in this league," Johnson said. "People catch on to it and it's a copycat league, you know. If something works as far as coverage-wise or something the defense is doing and it's working effective against us, then the other teams are going to do it.

"We're just playing complete football and we're attacking the defense and not playing defense on offense."

The unpredictability and aggressiveness have shown more each week, from a quarterback draw for a touchdown called Sunday against Oakland to the consistent picking at Philadelphia's corners when the Eagles bizarrely chose to single-cover Johnson, leaving him with open routes, easy yards and, eventually, three touchdowns.

The other part is Stafford has been in shotgun much more under Cooter than Lombardi and the pistol also has been reintroduced into the offense. Stafford said this wasn't a change Cooter made the first day he came in as coordinator, but it clearly has helped Stafford and the Lions.

It all led to Thursday, when Stafford and Johnson and the rest of the offense moved at will and scored on six straight possessions against Philadelphia.

"It felt like a video game," Ebron said. "It felt like they were out there playing a video game."

It all starts with Cooter, Stafford and their obvious rapport. And so far, it has led to an offensive renaissance when the Lions needed it the most.

"He seems very comfortable. [Thursday] didn't look difficult," Tate said. "I'm sure it was, but the throws he's making are on point. He's taking his three-step drops, his seven-step drops and throwing money balls out there and guys are making plays.

"It starts with Coach Jim Bob and it starts with Matthew and they are doing a great job of leading this team."