THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Matthew Stafford has been one of the NFL's most-durable quarterbacks over the past dozen years of his career despite getting sacked a whopping 444 times over his 14 seasons in the league.
The past 16 sacks have happened in the Los Angeles Rams' first four games of the new season, but Stafford doesn't think there's any reason to be worried about his health — even on a short week of preparation before playing behind a patchwork offensive line against the Dallas Cowboys' impressive pass rush.
That's because in Stafford's experience, hits and injuries are maddeningly unconnected.
“Every NFL game presents its own challenge when it comes to bumps and bruises,” Stafford said Wednesday. “You never know how it's going to shake out. There's games where I feel like I never get touched, but one thing rolls you up and hurts you. And other games where you get hit more often and you feel decent coming out of it. I feel good (now). I just do everything I can to get myself ready.”
Only Carson Wentz has been sacked more times this season than Stafford, who has also gone two straight weeks without throwing a touchdown pass. He threw for at least one score in each of his first 23 games with the Rams (2-2), who bet their franchise’s future on him in their trade with Detroit early last year.
The bet already paid off splendidly with last season's Super Bowl title, but if the Rams have any hope of a repeat, they probably need to keep Stafford upright and unbothered more often — particularly against elite teams such as Buffalo and San Francisco, who accounted for 14 of those 16 sacks.
“A couple of those were just mental errors that are uncharacteristic for our (blockers) to make,” coach Sean McVay said. “We want to try to minimize the amount of times that our quarterback is getting hit. The way that both those games have kind of unfolded, that is not ideal. That is something that we take a lot of pride in, and we’ve got to be able to clean it up.”
Stafford was pressured 22 times by San Francisco, according to the NFL’s Next Gen stats. That’s the most pressures against any quarterback in a game this season, and it’s tied for the second-most pressures allowed by the Rams since 2014.
Stafford was pressured at least 23% of the time in all four of the Rams’ games this season. At least the pressures haven’t damaged his completion rate, which sits at a career-high 70.7%.
Injuries and turnover on the Rams’ offensive line likely are more responsible for Stafford’s burgeoning sack total than anything the quarterback himself is doing, but that will be of little comfort with Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Dante Fowler bearing down on him Sunday.
Los Angeles might face the Cowboys on Sunday with three preseason third-stringers starting across the interior line to cover for the definite absences of center Brian Allen (knee) and right guard Coleman Shelton (high ankle sprain), along with the possible absence of left guard David Edwards (concussion). The Rams' depth is stretched with backups Tremayne Anchrum and Logan Bruss also sidelined for the season.
Stafford also leads the NFL this season with six interceptions after sharing the league lead with 17 last season. His pick-6 in the fourth quarter against San Francisco ensured the Rams’ 24-9 defeat and capped a difficult day for the offense, which managed just 3.5 yards per play.
But Stafford says he feels great despite the elbow injury that affected his entire offseason preparation.
“I try to find ways to look at the film as objectively as I can,” Stafford said. “I say, ‘OK, can I get the ball out quicker here? Can we do this and get us into this play?’ I look internally more than anything. I know those guys up front are fighting and doing everything they can to keep guys off me.”
NOTES: The Rams didn't practice Wednesday, instead they were holding meetings and lifting weights to provide an extra rest day to the players on a short week. ... McVay is hopeful Edwards will return from the concussion protocol in time to play. ... If the Rams had practiced, McVay said Allen, Shelton, CB Cobie Durant (hamstring) and S Jordan Fuller (hamstring) would not have practiced. ... S Taylor Rapp left Monday's game with “a rib issue,” but McVay said the Rams expect him to play.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL