Burleson Motivates -- From The Hospital
He is the centerpiece which the team converges around for pre-game huddles, screaming motivational rhetoric, fueling the team's energy and enthusiasm.
However, Burleson wasn't on the field Sunday during his team's 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks. He wasn't even in the building. Burleson, recovering from surgery after breaking his leg in the team's previous contest, watched the game from a hospital bed.
Still, anyone that has had the pleasure of becoming acquainted to the veteran receiver knows he wouldn't let that keep him from pumping up his teammates.
Burleson recorded himself – from his hospital bed, draped in hospital gown and all – delivering one last dose of inspiration to his teammates prior to Sunday's game.
The team was shown the recording Saturday night after watching film in a meeting.
The message resonated with the team.
"(It was) Nate being Nate, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary from Nate," said center Dominic Raiola. "Just ended with a little speech, motivation. Once we saw him, it was kind of like everybody's eyes lit up. We said from the beginning of the week that we wanted to play with Nate's spirit and passion. We know how much he would love to be out here… that was big for us. We took that and ran with it. I think all 48 guys played with that passion and spirit."
Unwavering Stafford Support
Through the team's first six games, Stafford's play has fallen under scrutiny.
With five touchdown passes, six interceptions and four losses, the critics were out. Some said he was slumping, others that he was never as good as advertised.
The criticism was wide ranging but had one thing in common, it all occurred outside the organization.
"He's never shown (that he was slumping)," said Raiola. "(He) carries the same high head and work ethic and preparation going into each day at work. I see it and I don't think any of these guys in here ever looked at him as slumping. I think guys around him needed to pick it up and that's what needed to be done."
Stafford may have restored some of the external confidence after throwing for 352 yards, three touchdowns and rushing for another against a Seahawks defense that was allowing just over 227 yards per game through the air and barley more than one passing touchdown a game on average, but he did not need to restore any internal confidence.
"It's easy to be confident in him when you see him every day in meetings and you see him every day on the practice field and the talent that he has," said head coach Jim Schwartz. "Honestly, you look at the games, you evaluate exactly how we came short in a game or how we were able to get the victory. We know that over the course of time Matt's going to make the plays and he's got players around him to make the plays. It's easy to have confidence in Matt. That's certainly not a leap of faith by me and I'm not going out on a limb having confidence in him."
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman stirred the controversy pot just a little bit when he changed his Twitter name to "Optimus Prime" earlier in the week.
The name change is a reference to the protagonist Transformers character that opposes "Megatron", the notorious nickname of Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Johnson posted only three catches for 46 yards – pedestrian numbers by his standards – against the Seahawks, prompting Sherman to declare his ineffectiveness.
"You see his numbers, they speak for themselves," said Sherman. "He was a non-factor. So, that's how that went. He was not a factor in the game. That's all you can say about that."
Johnson's contributions far exceed the stat sheet and the All Pro receiver was his usual self in terms of drawing the defense's attention away from his teammates, opening them up for playmaking opportunities.
On the game-winning touchdown, Johnson helped do just that.
"That was a called play, there were about four dudes standing next to Calvin Johnson, one dude standing next to Titus (Young)," said Stafford. "I liked my numbers over there a little bit better."
In addition, Sherman was the cornerback in coverage against Young for his 47-yard touchdown score.
Sherman, who's twitter name - for now - remains Optimus Prime tweeted after the game.
"Autobots lost the battle this time," he said via Twitter. "Always another day…"