INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Matthew Stafford has known since the NFL schedule was released more than five months ago that a matchup against the Detroit Lions, his former team of 12 seasons, loomed. However, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback said it wasn't something he focused much attention on.
However, on Sunday, after the Rams defeated the Lions 28-17, Stafford expressed relief that he could finally put the reunion behind him.
"Am I happy it's over with? Yeah," said Stafford, who requested a trade from Lions ownership after last season. "Got a lot of great friends, got a lot of people I care about that are on that team or from that city and just glad to have this one over with. Can put the storylines away and just go out and play football the rest of the year and just enjoy it."
Rams coach Sean McVay and Lions quarterback Jared Goff can also move on from the saga that has surrounded their relationship following last January's blockbuster trade that brought Stafford to L.A. and sent Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to Detroit.
After shaking hands with Lions coach Dan Campbell postgame, McVay searched among a crowd of players before he finally tracked down Goff, his quarterback of four seasons, and the two embraced.
McVay initially declined to share what was said, but eventually relented. "I said, 'Great job, I'll touch base with you a little bit later on.'"
Goff sidestepped a similar question posed about his interaction with McVay and responded more generally about seeing former teammates.
"Just a lot of guys saying good job and me echoing that to them," Goff said. "That's pretty typical of postgame, just 'good job' and 'appreciate it.' That was pretty much it."
The Rams played a tribute video for Goff ahead of kickoff, thanking the former No. 1 overall pick for his five seasons in Los Angeles that included two division titles, an NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance.
With the victory, the Rams improved to 6-1 and the Lions fell to 0-7 to remain the only winless team in the NFL.
The day began on somewhat emotional terms for Stafford, as the often stoic quarterback described arriving at SoFi Stadium amid a scene of Detroit fans wearing his No. 9 Lions jersey.
"It was humbling. It was really nice to see," Stafford said. "Thought to myself that was pretty cool, I really appreciate it. I've said it a bunch of times and I truly mean it: I loved my time there."
Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp was among the Detroit personnel Stafford greeted before the game.
Rams and Lions fans, of which there were many among the announced crowd of more than 70,540, erupted into cheers in the second quarter when Stafford completed a 2-yard pass to receiver Cooper Kupp and the stadium announcer congratulated Stafford on completing his 300th career touchdown pass.
Stafford becomes the 13th quarterback in NFL history to reach the milestone, while being the fourth youngest at the time behind Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Brett Favre. Stafford also tied John Elway for the 12th-most touchdown passes in NFL history.
"It means a little bit," Stafford said, smirking, when asked what it meant to be in the same realm as Elway. "I grew up watching John and it was huge. I wore No. 7 in high school and college because of John and was a huge fan of the way he played the game, the way he threw the ball, all of that. It's pretty cool, I'm sure I'll appreciate it more when I'm done playing, but along the way it's nice to get that done with a win."
Despite watching the majority of the first quarter from the sideline after a series of special teams gaffes, Stafford finished 28-of-41 passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions closed as 16.5-point underdogs entering the game, but kept it surprisingly competitive behind three special teams plays -- including a recovered onside kick and two fake punts that led to conversions. In fact, the Lions went into the fourth quarter with a 19-17 lead and were in position for a go-ahead touchdown with 5:03 to play until defensive lineman Aaron Donald hit Goff as he launched a pass into the end zone that cornerback Jalen Ramsey picked off. The Rams kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession to secure the win.
Detroit failed to score on five red zone trips. Goff finished 22-of-36 passing for 268 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
The Lions have dropped two games this season on last-second, 50-plus-yard field goals and have now lost despite playing close with a Super Bowl-hopeful Rams team on the road.
Goff said their record doesn't reflect their effort.
"We're a lot better than our record shows. Ultimately in this league that doesn't matter," Goff said. "It really doesn't. I can say that as long as I want, but until we win some games, we can't really prove it."