Highland Park’s Stafford has Lions on winning path

Posted Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Matthew Stafford grew up in Highland Park, so naturally he rooted for the Dallas Cowboys. One Halloween he even dressed up as a Cowboys player with full pads.

He guesses he wore Troy Aikman’s No. 8.

“But I can’t remember back that far,” Stafford said in a phone interview. “I was, of course, a Cowboys fan growing up, being from right around there. They were playing some good ball at that point, too.”

Now, Stafford would like nothing better than to beat the Cowboys. He did just that in 2011.

The Lions trailed by 24 points in the third quarter in Stafford’s homecoming game at AT&T Stadium, but the quarterback helped rally Detroit to a 34-30 victory. He finished 21 of 43 for 240 yards with two touchdowns and an interception after completing only 9 of his first 23 passes.

“It was exciting, to say the least,” Stafford said. “I didn’t play my best, especially in the first half. Our defense did a great job of getting us back into it with a couple of interceptions returned for touchdowns. We made some plays in the passing game late in the game, and we won the football game. That’s the NFL. We were on the other end of the stick of that one last week [against the Cincinnati Bengals], and we’re looking to bounce back.”

Stafford, in his fifth season, has rebounded from a turnover-plagued 2012 season to pass for 2,129 yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 95.3 passer rating in 2013. He had 21 turnovers last season, including 17 interceptions.

“I obviously made a big commitment in the off-season to make as good of decisions as I possibly can and come back and play as well as I could after a year that myself and the team knew wasn’t our best,” Stafford said. “We had a chance to come back and play better this year, and we’re doing it so far.”

Stafford, a former No. 1 overall pick, played in only 13 games his first two seasons combined because of knee and shoulder injuries. He has not missed a game since.

He led the Lions to the playoffs in 2011, passing for 5,038 yards with 41 touchdowns, and he has them back as playoff contenders this season.

“It’s definitely an interesting road to get here, not playing a whole lot in my first two years with some injury stuff I hadn’t really dealt with before,” Stafford said. “It’s been a great step for me. Obviously, I had a great year as a team and individually in 2011 and came back in ’12 and didn’t play as well as we could, myself included. But we’re a resilient bunch of guys, and I’m proud to be part of this organization, that’s for sure.”

Daniel happy in KC

Chase Daniel has taken only three snaps this season. But other than not playing, the Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback couldn’t be happier.

“It’s a blast,” Daniel said in a phone interview. “We have fun every day we step in the facility. It’s been a long road. It seems like forever ago that we started camp. We’ve come a long way as a team, a long way as a group, and we just continue to grow daily. Something I recognize here, something that I recognized in New Orleans as well, is that it’s an unselfish locker room. We hang out with each other outside of football, and we really care about each other. I think that goes a long way.”

The former Southlake Carroll and Missouri star is making the best of a good situation.

He signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Chiefs in March after four seasons backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans. Though he would love to be playing, Daniel can’t quibble with the results.

Alex Smith is 26-5-1 the past three seasons, including 7-0 this year. The Chiefs stand as the league’s lone undefeated team.

“The itch is definitely there,” Daniel said. “But you have to understand that we’re rolling right now, and Alex is playing well. I’m not worried about what I can’t control. What I can control is getting my mind and my body ready to go to battle whenever my number is called.”

Though Daniel threw only nine passes for 55 yards in his career with the Saints, he learned at the hand of Sean Payton and Brees. New Orleans went 44-20 in his time there, including a Super Bowl title in 2009.

The winning continues for Daniel in Kansas City under Andy Reid.

“For us, it’s not surprising,” Daniel said. “We knew what type of team we had. With coach Reid, he expects perfection and guys want to make him happy. Guys want to go to war for him, and go to war with him, and I think it’s shown these first seven weeks of the season.”

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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