Does it matter that the Lions have struggled to run the ball?

Posted Dec 22, 2011

The Lions don’t run the football well.

There’s no sense beating around the bush here.

The good news is that it hasn’t mattered much up to this point in the season.

To steal a quote from Lions coach Jim Schwartz:

“Try to move the football and try to score. Those are the only things that matter.”

The Lions do plenty of that, ranking fourth in the league with an average of 28.2 points per game, thanks to the NFL’s fifth-best passing attack.

At the same time, the Lions are one of eight teams in the NFL to average less than 100-yards per game on the ground. Their average of 97.4 is the fifth lowest in the league.

Injuries have certainly played a role with running back Mikel Leshoure never playing a down this season with a torn Achilles and running back Jahvid Best playing in only the first six games because of concussion problems.

But Schwartz is right, as long as the offense keeps scoring and the team keeps winning, it doesn’t matter how it looks in the box score.

The Packers (13-1) are among those eight teams that average less than 100 yards rushing per game and they’re considered one of the best offenses in the league.

“When they start changing, you get a first down for nine yards for rushing or you get seven points for a touchdown that is rushing, then we might change it,” Schwartz said. “But we are going to do whatever we can to score points and move the ball.”

However, there are two possible problems on the horizon for the Lions and their running woes if they make the playoffs.

1.) Holding a lead in the fourth quarter

One of the reasons the Lions drafted Leshoure was to have a back that could get the tough yards - the third-and-short late in a game to put a team away. The Lions have struggled in short-yardage situations this year. They couldn’t pick up a third- and fourth-down-and-less-than-a-yard against the Raiders late in the third quarter last week that almost cost them.

Having to throw the ball on third-down-and-short to keep the ball away from an opponent late in a game isn’t the ideal situation to be in in the playoffs.

2.) Conditions

The road to the Super Bowl will likely go through Lambeau Field and that could mean a mid-January game for the Lions. That means snow, wind and cold. Elements that aren't ideal for an offense predicated on the pass.

The good news for the Lions, though, is that running the football well isn’t a prerequisite to playoff success.

Of the last 10 Super Bowl champions, half ranked 18th or worse running the football and only four ranked in the top 10.