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Why This Is The Best Stretch Of Matthew Stafford's Career

By: Will Burchfield

DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) - Matthew Stafford has gone on some explosive runs as a quarterback, but few that match the one he's on now.

Since Week 4, Stafford has thrown for 253 yards per game, racked up 14 touchdowns to just one interception and posted a passer rating of 104.2. The Lions have won seven of eight games in that span and assumed first place in the NFC North.

On Wednesday, Stafford said it ranks as one of the funnest stretches of his career.

"It's up there. Any time you're winning it's great, but at the same time let's forget about last week and move on," he said.

Spoken like a true leader. Still, when asked how it feels to beat an opposing defense with a well-run play - something the Lions have done frequently this season - Stafford was willing to look back.

"It's great, part of all the hard work you put in in preparation. When it comes to fruition on game days it's great. We've had a couple of those this year," he said. "I can think of that long run Theo (Riddick) had in Minnesota, the touchdown last week to GT (Golden Tate)."

Both those plays came in Detroit victories. Winning is something the Lions have gown familiar with since losing to the Bears in Week 4 and falling to 1-3 on the season.

"I think we've just played better football since then," Stafford said. "In that game we turned the ball over twice. Those were huge, huge turnovers (that) cost us points. Since then we've done a nice job of avoiding that, and that's been a big turnaround for us."

For Stafford, in particular. With just one interception in his last eight games, the nine-year vet is playing the most responsible football of his career. Critics will accuse him of becoming a game-manager - the same critics, in all likelihood, who once decried his status as a gunslinger - but his overall numbers suggest he's found a happy medium between bashful and bold.

Here are the best runs of Stafford's college/professional career in terms of individual statistics and team success.

2007, Georgia

Time frame: Oct. 13 - Jan. 1

Team performance: 7-0 to finish the season, culminating in a Sugar Bowl victory over Hawaii

Personal performance: 10 TD, 7 INT, 194 yards per game.

2008, Georgia

Time frame: Oct. 18 - Jan. 1

Team performance: 5-2 to finish the season, culminating in a Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State

Personal performance: 17 TD, 7 INT, 279 yards per game.

2011, Lions 

Time frame: Sept. 11 - Oct. 30

Team performance: 6-2 to start the season

Personal performance: 19 TD, 4 INT, 272 yards per game. 99.1 passer rating.

2014, Lions

Time frame: Sept. 8 - Nov. 9

Team performance: 7-2 to start the season

Personal performance: 13 TD, 8 INT, 277 yards per game. 86.6 passer rating.

2015, Lions

Time frame: Nov. 15 - Jan. 3

Team performance: 6-2 to finish the season

Personal performance: 19 TD, 2 INT, 272 yards per game. 110.1 passer rating.

2016, Lions

Time frame: Oct. 9 - Dec. 4

Team performance: 7-1 since Week 4

Personal performance: 14 TD, 1 INT, 253 yards per game. 104.2 passer rating.

In a vacuum, last year's run stands out as Stafford's best. But consider the context. That stretch of play began when the Lions were 1-7 and buried in the NFC North. As great as Stafford was from there on out, it didn't really matter.

This year, his hot streak has seen the team resurrect its season. It began when the Lions were in last place in the division and it has burned through their ascent to first. With every strong outing by Stafford and each additional win, the Lions close in on something they haven't attained in 23 years: a division title and the right to host a playoff game.

It's impossible for anyone but Stafford to judge the funnest stretch of his career. But in determining the best stretch of his career, the numbers are as valid a source as any. And here's what the numbers tell us.

At no point has Stafford put together a run of play as impressive and as significant as the one he's in the midst of at the moment.

No wonder he's a rising MVP candidate.

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