Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection wreaking havoc on NFL defenses, lifting Rams offense to new heights

No quarterback-receiver combination has been more potent during this NFL season than Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. 

Stafford ranks second in the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns, as well as passer rating, while he’s first in QBR, Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and TruMedia’s version of EPA (estimated points added) per dropback. Kupp, meanwhile, is tied for the NFL lead with 90 targets, ranks second in the league with 63 catches (Tyreek Hill has 64) and is first by a mile in receiving yards (924; next-closest is Deebo Samuel with 819) and receiving touchdowns (10; Mike Evans and DK Metcalf each have eight). 

Together with Sean McVay, Stafford and Kupp are breaking NFL defenses with an outrageous mixture of scheme and talent. 

Through his first four seasons, Kupp was a moderately high-volume (he averaged between 6.2 and 8.4 targets per game), mostly short-yardage slot man. He helped the Rams get the ball downfield in smallish chunks, finding holes in defenses where Jared Goff could clearly see that he was open, then fire the ball into the passing lane. 

Teaming with Stafford has turned Kupp into a different, even more dangerous weapon. He’s also become an explosive play machine, thanks to the combination of his route-running capabilities and Stafford’s ability and willingness to deliver the ball downfield, as well as before Kupp comes out of his break, rather than when he’s already shaken free of the defense. Kupp’s average depth of target this season is 9.4 yards downfield. Over the previous three seasons, that number has been plummeting: it was 8.4 in 2018, dipped to 7.2 in 2019, and fell all the way to 6.3 last season. 

Kupp has also not just retained his high volume, but seen it dramatically rise. His career-high targets per game average was previously 8.4; he has not seen fewer than nine targets in any game this season and is averaging 11.3 per week. Stafford targets him…

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