LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: 5 numbers that need to change

Posted May 22, 2018

Tim Twentyman takes a look at five numbers that need to change in 2018.

The Detroit Lions won nine games last year, but missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.

The disappointment of not playing in the postseason led to a coaching change following the regular season. Matt Patricia will now look to get the Lions back in playoff contention.

But simply making the playoffs isn’t the goal in the Bob Quinn era.

“At the end of the day, I want to take this team to the next level, and to me that’s winning championships,” Quinn said.

With that being the new standard, there are areas in which the Lions need to be better if they expect their record to be better.

Here’s a look at five numbers that need to change for the Lions to reach loftier goals in 2018:

Number: 76.3

What it means: The Lions averaged 76.3 rushing yards per game in 2017

NFL rank: 32nd

Twentyman: This has been a problem throughout Matthew Stafford's time in Detroit. The Lions simply haven’t done a good enough job getting him enough help in the form of a consistent running game.

The stats about how many 100-yard rushers Stafford’s had in his tenure (7) and the current streak of games without a 100-yard rusher (68) are stark reminders of how little help he’s had in that department.

The average rushing yards per game of the 12 teams that made the playoffs last year was 123.0.

Quinn made improving that portion of Detroit’s offense a main mission this offseason with the hiring of new offensive line coaches, signing veteran running back LeGarrette Blount in free agency, and then drafting interior lineman Frank Ragnow, running back Kerryon Johnson and fullback Nick Bawden.

The Lions have a terrific passing offense with Stafford and his collection of pass catchers, but the ability for Stafford to hand the ball off to a reliable run game and be able to milk a clock with it in the fourth quarter are surely things he’d welcome.

Number: 48.0

What it means: Percentage of time the Lions gained a first down on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1

NFL rank: 30th

Twentyman: This was a particular sore spot with Quinn during the postseason evaluation process.

“When I look back at our team last year, all those critical situations, it’s goal line, we can’t run the ball like half a yard, that bothered me," he said.

The league average in converting those short situations on third and fourth down was 68 percent. For the 12 teams that made the playoffs, that percentage increased to 72 percent.

Quinn wants a tougher and more physical football team that can impose their will in critical situations to keep drives alive.

Number: 61.8

What it means: The percentage of times opponents scored a touchdown in the red zone

NFL rank: 29th

Twentyman: This was one area the Lions struggled on defense last year. Opponents recorded 55 drives in Detroit's red zone last season, per STATS, INC., and scored 34 touchdowns (18 rush & 16 pass). The 34 red zone touchdowns allowed were tied for the most in the NFL with San Francisco.

Opponents also had the most goal to go drives against the Lions last season (38). The league average was 25.

Matt Patricia’s defense in New England last year ranked fourth in the NFL at 43.8 percent, allowing 21 total touchdowns.

Number: 47

What it means: The number of times Matthew Stafford was sacked last season

NFL rank: 24th

Twentyman: The sack totals allowed by Detroit rank 24th, but individually, only Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (52) was sacked more than Stafford was.

Right tackle Rick Wagner was credited with allowing six sacks in 13 games last season, the most by any individual player.

Stafford has proven his toughness time and time again over the years, but one hit on the quarterback is one too many. The Lions have to be better protecting their franchise player.

Number: 23.1

What it means: Detroit’s third-down percentage in the red zone

NFL rank: 32nd

Twentyman: This was 15 percentage points lower than the league average.

One of the easiest ways to lose a football game in the NFL is having to settle for field goals in the red zone instead of touchdowns, leaving three or four crucial points off the board.

Take last year’s Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football for example. The Lions lost that contest 20-15, failing to reach the end zone, and instead having to settle for five Matt Prater field goals.

Detroit was 2-for-12 for the game on third down and 0-for-4 in the red zone on third down.