Five numbers to keep up in 2014

Posted Jul 8, 2014

Last week Tim Twentyman looked at five numbers that needed to change in 2014. This week he turns his attention to five successful numbers from the 2013 season and how the Lions can maintain them.

Last week I took a look at five numbers from the 2013 season that need to change in order for the Detroit Lions to take a step closer to the playoffs this year.

It seems only fair that we also look at five numbers where the team excelled last year and take a closer look at how they can maintain those marks in 2014.

Number: 23

What it means: Total number of sacks allowed

NFL rank: 2

How to maintain: One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2013 season was the play from Detroit’s offensive line and it turned into the most consistent and productive unit on the team.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked just 3.6 percent of the time he dropped back to pass last year.

The Lions are projected to have the same starting offensive line of Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle again this season. Reiff, Warford and Waddle should be even better this year in their second season as full-time starters.

Stafford is a quick decision maker and doesn't hold on to the ball too long. That, coupled with the offensive line play, makes for a pretty good relationship.

Number: 30.3

What it means: Opponents third down conversion percentage

NFL rank: 1

How to maintain: The Lions defense excelled on third down last season, limiting opponents to just 64 conversions on 211 attempts. The league average for third-down efficiency on defense was 38.1 percent.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is going to be much more aggressive this year and will bring pressure from all over the field. The Lions think they’ve upgraded at safety and linebacker this offseason, two important positions when it comes to maintaining their success on third-down defense.

Number: 173.1

What it means: Total yards per game by running backs

NFL rank: 3

How to maintain: Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are under contract, which is a good start.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Only San Diego (177.7) and New England (173.5) got more production week-in and week-out from their running backs.

The Lions averaged 105.6 rushing and 67.4 receiving yards from the position last year.

With one of the best offensive lines in football returning intact and the additions of receiver Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron, it seems logical to think Bush, Bell and the rest of the Lions' running backs corps will have even more room to operate in 2014.

Number: 38.1

What it means: Red zone touchdown efficiency percentage on defense

NFL rank: 2

How to maintain: Teams had a tough time trying to punch the football into the end zone once it got inside the 20-yard line. Considering the league average was 55.5 percent efficiency, the Lions’ number is even more impressive.

Teams did score the most points (187) on the Lions defense outside of the red zone, which is why their points allowed per game (23.5) isn’t in-line with their gaudy red-zone efficiency number.

The Lions will be more aggressive with their cornerbacks in man coverage this year and they think they have two good ones in Darius Slay and Rahsean Mathis to play that kind of style. Having veteran safeties Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo back in support probably lets Austin feel more comfortable playing that way.

The Lions are going to attack teams all over the field and especially in the red zone when there isn’t a lot of room to work with.

One other note as it pertains to the Lions’ red-zone defense. They allowed a touchdown just 45.1 percent of the time in goal-to-go situations. That number is astounding, and certainly played into their overall touchdown efficiency numbers, considering the league average for defenses allowing a touchdown in goal-to-go situations was 70.5 percent.

Number: 62.5

What it means: Red zone touchdown percentage on offense

NFL rank: 4

How to maintain: The Lions can throw an intimidating line of receiving threats at a defense near the goal line with Calvin Johnson (6-5), Joe Fauria (6-7), Eric Ebron (6-4), Brandon Pettigrew (6-5) and Kris Durham (6-6).

Fauria made his mark in the red zone as a rookie catching seven touchdown passes with a combination of terrific size and soft hands. He'll pose a similar threat in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see what Ebron brings to the table in that regard, and we can always expect Tate to be a sure-handed option near the goal line.

It certainly seems possible the Lions could be even better in the red zone this upcoming season.