When playoff success finally came calling for Matthew Stafford, it could have had trouble recognizing him.
The Rams’ gunslinger showed up disguised as a game manager for Monday night’s game, handing off more than he threw. Stafford’s 17 passes were the fewest he’d ever thrown in more than 180 NFL games, not counting games he left injured. After refusing all season to sacrifice aggressiveness to avoid interceptions, the quarterback protected the ball and let the rest of the roster play hero.
Victory found him, a 34-11 romp over the Arizona Cardinals that set the Rams on the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the first time in four trips to the playoffs that the 33-year-old Stafford has been beyond the first round.
“It didn’t feel strange, but I could feel coming out of the game that I didn’t put it up in the air a bunch of times,” Stafford said Wednesday. “I take it as a positive. I love throwing the ball, no doubt. But I love it when I hand it off and our guys are getting 10, 12 yards a pop too.
“At this point, I’ll take (wins) any way I can get ’em.”
Stafford completed 13 of his 17 passes for 202 yards, touchdowns to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp, and no interceptions, and was sacked once. He sneaked over the goal line to account for a third touchdown.
It wasn’t classic Stafford,…