Matthew Stafford looking to throw fewer passes in 2013

Posted Jul 16, 2013

Driven by circumstance, QB Matthew Stafford threw the ball a league-record 727 times in 2012

One thing made clear during last year's 4-12 season is that it'll be hard for the Detroit Lions to get back to the playoffs if quarterback Matthew Stafford throws the ball 727 times.

"We proved that last year," Stafford recently told the NFL Network's NFL AM crew when asked if the Lions could win in 2013 with Stafford attempting a league-record 727 passes in 2012.

"A lot of the time, we were throwing the ball because of circumstance; we were behind in games late in the game and it's tough to justify handing the ball off a lot and trying to get back into it.

"That was kind of a thing of circumstance but at the same time we have to find a way to be more explosive in the run game and a little bit more balanced as well."

The Lions did that by going out and making running back Reggie Bush one of their priorities in free agency.

In Bush, the Lions have a proven playmaker who has a chance to go the distance every time he touches the football. He'll open the playbook for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and provide the speed element the unit lacked last season without Jahvid Best (concussions).

"Well, I think Reggie's definitely going to add a dynamic to our offense," Linehan said. "First of all, he gives us a running back that has produced in this league and really, in the last two years, done a really good job of just carrying the ball.

"You saw it even prior to his last stop he was doing a lot of the things you'll see him do in our offense and be a dual threat guy. He gives us a dynamic that is a lot like what we got with Jahvid (Best), it's a little different, everybody's different, but he definitely gives us a guy that can be an effective rusher and effective receiver."

The offense averaged 4.1 yards per run last year and ranked seventh in the NFL with 46 percent of their rushes going for at least four yards, but when you consider that almost 74 percent of the team's 1,160 plays were against defenses with six or fewer defenders in the box, those numbers don't seem as dynamic.

The Lions are never going to be a team that runs the ball more than they throw it. That simply isn't their makeup and doesn't play to their strengths of offense, which is Stafford throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson and some of the team's other weapons in the passing game.

But the Lions can't pass the ball 740 times this season and expect to win as many games as it takes to make a second playoff appearance in three years. They need an improved defensive effort that can hold leads and a run game that can make defenses pay from time to time when they don't respect it.

Every quarterback wants to throw the football, but Stafford certainly wouldn't mind turning around and handing the ball off a few more times in the fourth quarter this year.