ALLEN PARK, Mich. (CBSDC/AP) — Looking ahead to the Washington Redskins opponent this weekend, you’ll find Matthew Stafford is receiving rave reviews compared to Robert Griffin III’s lukewarm, bordering on frigid, start to the season. Maybe the expectations were just too high in the nation’s capital.
The Detroit Lions made a big investment in Stafford during the offseason and, so far, he’s earning it.
The fifth-year veteran has 635 passing yards and four touchdowns two games into the season. He signed an extension that will pay him $41.5 million in guaranteed money and as much as $76.5 million total.
He’ll get a chance to add to his hot start Sunday when the Lions travel to Washington, which has seen opposing signal-callers complete 73 percent of their passes with six touchdowns.
“I’m just trying to play smart. I’ve had another year of experience,” Stafford said Tuesday.
Stafford was 24 for 36 through the air in Sunday’s 25-21 loss at Arizona for 278 yards and two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson, including a 72-yarder. He’s completed 66 percent of his passes so far this season against one interception for a passer rating of 102.
The addition of Reggie Bush has seen the Lions calling more short passing plays. Stafford said teams shouldn’t expect that to be the norm.
“They’re forcing us to take the underneath stuff. If they’re going to play deep, we’re going to play catch-and-run and make them pay for it,” he said.
The Lions rank eighth in total offense this season and are seventh in passing offense. They’re tied for sixth-most points scored.
Even before the extension, Stafford proved his worth to a franchise that hasn’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback since the 1970s.
He’s one of just four players to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season and recorded the best passer rating for a Lions quarterback (97.4) when the Lions secured a wild-card playoff berth in 2011. That effort earned him NFL Comeback Player of the Year laurels.
And only Tom Brady and Drew Brees have thrown more touchdown passes in the last two seasons.
Still, a handful of mistakes, including a pass-interference penalty that set up Arizona’s go-ahead touchdown last weekend left some bemoaning the state of the “same old Lions.” Stafford paid it no heed.
“I don’t really listen to it and don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to play as clean of football as we possibly can and make as little mistakes as we can.”
He could use some help from his receivers. The Lions and Patriots lead the league with eight dropped passes in the first two games.
“It’s on everybody. It’s on me, too,” Stafford said. “I’ve got to give them more catchable passes and guys need to make a few more plays, but at the same time I’m having guys make great catches for me, so I take the good with the bad.”
Coach Jim Schwartz did not address the media Tuesday and there was no update on the condition of Bush, who had just two rushing attempts and a fumble in the second half of the loss at Arizona after taking a helmet to his left knee midway through the second quarter.
Neither Stafford nor running back Joique Bell would speculate on Bush’s availability Sunday in Washington, where the Lions have lost 21 straight games. Their last road victory against the Washington franchise came in 1935, when the Redskins played in Boston.
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