Matthew Stafford faces ‘good buddy’ Matt Ryan in first game back in Georgia since college

ALLEN PARK — While most remain fixated on Matthew Stafford’s relationship with Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw as the World Series unfolds, the Detroit Lions quarterback will face one of his best friends in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan this weekend.

This matchup also represents Stafford’s first game back in Georgia since he was leading the Bulldogs more than a decade ago. The Lions quarterback spoke with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday, detailing his “unique and special” relationship with Ryan. The two have vacationed together, won a church league basketball championship in Atlanta and their wives remain close friends. Stafford chalked the pair’s bond up to similar life experiences as NFL quarterbacks with intimate ties to the state of Georgia.

“They’ve been awesome. From a male perspective, there’s only 32 other guys, 31 other guys that kind of do what I do and what he does,” Stafford said. “Not too many of us leftover that have done it for as long as we have, so it’s great to have somebody just to talk with (and) about during the season and during the offseason. He’s obviously a great player and a great friend of mine. Our wives get along extremely well. We really all four get along great. They’ve been there for us when we’ve been through tough times. We’ve tried to be there for them when they’re going through tough times.

“It’s a unique and special relationship that I know as my wife, and I do, (that) we cherish that one—a lot of common experiences in life. Always helps when your wives get together and they’re really good friends too, so a lot of similar experiences. He’s a great guy, easy to get along with. I’m sure if you ask all his teammates, they’ll tell you the same thing.”

Stafford said the two remain in contact throughout the season and that they will likely have a friendly dinner wager on Sunday’s game. Ryan, while speaking with reporters, said the friendship grew when he found out the two lived nearby in the offseason after bonding at the Pro Bowl in 2014.

The Lions (2-3) and Falcons (1-5) haven’t exactly gotten off to stellar starts on the year, with both blowing their fair share of leads.

Detroit rode the rushing attack to its 34-16 win in Jacksonville last week, though. Stafford hasn’t been as sharp as he was last season but has started to look downfield more often. Ryan, on the other hand, is the reigning NFC offensive player of the week after tossing four touchdowns in the win against the Vikings.

“You know, I feel like when we play, we’re both competitive dudes,” Stafford said. “We just want to go win. We’ll probably have a dinner wager on it, or something like that, something friendly. We’ll be just trying to beat each other. I’ll obviously pay attention when he’s on the field like I do with every other quarterback. He’ll do the same, I’m sure when I’m out there but trying to go win the game. Both of our teams didn’t get off to the start that we wanted to get off to, and it’s important for us to go out there and try to win as many as we possibly can.”

Stafford still has another home in the Atlanta area, where he spends a decent amount of time in the offseason. He said he’s looking forward to playing in Georgia again, and having some friends and family in attendance. For those wondering, Stafford has faced the Falcons four times in his career. Three of those matchups took place at Ford Field and another at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Lions quarterback’s name came up — as it always does — with Kershaw on the mound in the World Series opener on Tuesday night. He was asked if Ryan ever gets jealous of all this Kershaw talk, which generated an amusingly organic response.

“No. He’s the friend that gives me (expletive) for coming up again and again and again and again and again,” Stafford said. “He’s the best kind of friend when it comes to that.

“We talk about a lot of stuff. We talk quite a bit during the season. Anything and everything kind of comes up. We’re always checking in on family, making sure everybody’s doing good. You know, part of having a friendship is being able to have conversations and not have to tell everybody in the media what we talk about, so I’ll do that. He’s a good buddy.”

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