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Friday, November 8, 2013
Stafford nears franchise passing mark

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford has been playing in Detroit for four-and-a-half seasons. While this next fact might be a combination of years of franchise ineptitude and a shift in the NFL to pass-favored offenses, he's about to do something no Lions quarterback has been able to do in over 50 years.

He is about to break Bobby Layne's franchise record for passing yards.

Stafford needs 286 yards to pass Layne, who threw for 15,710 yards from 1950-58 for the Lions franchise record. Considering Stafford has thrown for more than that in half of Detroit's games this season -- although not against the Bears in September when he threw for a season-low 242 yards -- there is a chance he breaks the mark in Chicago.

In those four-plus seasons, Stafford has already thrown for 15,424 yards and 96 touchdowns while completing and attempting more passes than Layne did in his Lions career.

And there's a chance Stafford could end up doing this in his 54th start. That shows both the proliferation of passing in the NFL and Stafford's talent.

"It's obviously, any time you break a record, it's a humbling experience," Stafford said. "It's not something I'm setting out to do every time I go out to a game or whatever it is.

"It's not like I'm going out there trying to break records. I'm trying to win a game. If I do so in the process, obviously I have a lot of respect for the history of this game and this franchise, too, so it's something that when and if it happens, I'm sure I'll reflect on it after the fact."

Here, though, is where it gets a little weird. Layne and Stafford attended the same Dallas high school, Highland Park. Stafford, 25, will likely break all of Layne's marks considering he is about to pass his yardage benchmark and he is less than five years into the league.

"[He's] just really good," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "Quarterback play, I think, is at an all-time high."

Part of what helped Stafford reach the cusp of this mark has been his durability the past three seasons. Stafford has started every game for the Lions since the beginning of the 2011 season and will make his 41st straight regular season start Sunday in Chicago.

To give perspective, no other team in the NFC North will have had the same starting quarterback for every game this season after the Packers' Seneca Wallace starts in place of Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.

After Stafford's first two seasons, both of which saw him miss games due to injury, he has been remarkably consistent and durable.

"It was something that honestly, in my mind, wasn't an issue," Stafford said. "Obviously I didn't like missing games my first two seasons. But it's something that I never really experienced, didn't have a lot of history with so I knew it'd get back to normal soon enough and I feel like it's gone that way.

"I've played through some stuff to make sure I stayed on the field but it's something I take pride in, for sure, being out there every Sunday."

This season, that has also led to more consistency for Stafford, who has thrown for 2,617 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He's still learning, for sure, but he's starting to make a move into the top tier of quarterbacks in the NFL as he reaches his prime. Staying healthy and learning to make intelligent decisions -- like sometimes a throwaway is OK -- all helped with that.

"I'm just playing the game the way I know how to play it," Stafford said. "And trying to be as conscious as I can of trying to make sure I'm out there for the next snap.

"But at the same time playing the game the way I've always played it."