How Matthew Stafford Can Make NFL History in the Rams’ NFC Championship Matchup Against the 49ers

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford entered the 2021 NFL season with zero playoff wins on his resume. Now, he’s one victory away from reaching the Super Bowl. No wonder he wanted to escape the Detroit Lions when he did.

A victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game will the Rams to the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons. Even if he doesn’t don a “2021 NFC Champions” hat following the game, Stafford still has an excellent opportunity to make history on Sunday afternoon.

Matthew Stafford could make NFL history in the NFC Championship Game

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2022.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford could make NFL history in the 2021 NFC Championship Game | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Back in Week 1, Stafford fired three touchdowns in a 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. He added two more passing touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts one week later. Then, he carved through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense for four touchdowns in Week 3, and kept throwing more touchdowns as the season progressed.

Flash forward to the Rams’ NFC Divisional Round rematch with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Stafford threw two touchdowns, including a 70-yard hookup with All-Pro wideout Cooper Kupp early in the second quarter. The first score, a first-quarter connection with tight end Kendall Blanton, marked the 19th game this year that Stafford recorded a passing touchdown.

Stafford has thrown at least one touchdown in every game he’s played in this season. He is one throw away from becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record a passing touchdown in 20 games during one season; that club obviously includes regular-season and postseason games.

Several other quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning, threw touchdowns in 19 games during one season, almost always doing so through 16 regular-season outings and three in the postseason. However, Stafford did so via 17 regular-season games and two in the playoffs.

Naturally, Stafford also became one of the first quarterbacks in NFL history to throw a touchdown in every regular-season game during the 17-game era.

Stafford’s streak is remarkable regardless of how critics may view the feat

The NFL’s decision to add a 17th game (and, by extension, an 18th week) meant football fans needed to painfully endure conversations about records being tainted. Even well-respected columnists like Peter King fell victim to the foolish discourse about specific accolades not having as much value if they weren’t achieved in 16 games.

Some, naturally, might scoff at Stafford potentially becoming the first quarterback to throw a touchdown in 20 games in one season because he did it in 17 regular-season outings and three playoff games, not 16 and four.

Put simply, who cares?

Stafford played well enough in the regular season that his team won an extremely competitive NFC West. He defeated Kyler Murray and the inconsistent Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card Round before upsetting Brady and the Buccaneers on the road a week later. Does it really matter if he matched Manning and co. in the NFC Divisional Round instead of the conference title game?

Suppose Stafford becomes the first to hit 20 games with one touchdown, great. If not, Rams fans won’t care so long as the team wins on Sunday.

Don’t be surprised to see more quarterbacks follow Stafford’s lead in the 17-game season era

The 17-game era theoretically means more players will have a chance at throwing for 5,000 yards or rushing for 2,000 yards in a given season. However, the keyword is theoretically because all it takes is one poor performance or a seemingly-minor injury to derail those chances entirely.

Nonetheless, football fans should expect to see more quarterbacks achieve the 19-in-19 going forward simply because there are more opportunities to do so. Every team will play 17 regular-season games (not even the COVID-19 pandemic forced a forfeit), and each league now has seven playoff teams instead of six.

Los Angeles Chargers standout Justin Herbert already did the 17-in-17 this year. Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes should join him at some point, given his prolific passing skills and gaudy numbers. If Brady returns for the 2022 season, maybe he’ll do a 21-for-21 at 45 years old.

For now, though, Stafford has a chance to establish the 20-20 club, and he’d be wise to target Odell Beckham Jr. early and often against the 49ers. Trust us.

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