Head coach Dan Campbell said the Lions are trying to play the role of spoiler the last six games of the season. He told his team on Monday the final month and a half of the season is about trying to make the last six opponents feel a little bit of the pain Detroit's endured this season.
But in order to do that, Detroit has to play better offensively, especially when it comes to the passing game.
"The details of what we do in the passing game need to drastically improve," Campbell said Monday.
Detroit's run game has come along of late as the Lions are averaging 110.7 yards per game on the ground with a 4.6 yard average per carry. Both are respectable numbers.
The issue offensively all season has been a passing game that ranks near the bottom of the league. Detroit ranks 30th in both passing yards and touchdowns, and is one of just six teams across the league that average less than 200 passing yards per game (194.6).
"Every little thing, man, from the splits to the depth, they make all the difference in the world to what we're doing, particularly when you play some of these teams that are playing zone," Campbell said of some of the details surrounding the passing game he'd like to see improve the final six games.
"That split of where you're at and that route depth makes all the difference in that hook route that's supposed to be 18 yards and it's 16 and then I'm two yards inside where I should be, you just covered yourself. Just little things like that."
Those aren't things people would expect to see showing up on tape 13 weeks into the season.
"Just some routine things and details we need to hone in on," tight end T.J. Hockenson said. "There's still those little things that kind of creep their way up on tape and I don't think that's something we should be doing Week 13. It's one of those things where we need to hone in on ourselves and know the playbook."
Hockenson, like Campbell, eluded to miscommunication in play concepts and route running that need to be cleaned up for the offense the rest of the way. Four of Detroit's final six opponents (Broncos, Cardinals, Falcons and Packers) rank in the top 13 in pass defense.
Campbell also mentioned wanting to take more shots down the field in the passing game these last six weeks, which Detroit did a little more of against the Bears on Thanksgiving, but can certainly stand to do even more of the rest of the season.
The Lions have attempted just 23 passes this season that traveled at least 21 yards in the air, which ties San Francisco and Atlanta for the fewest attempted. Detroit's only hit on five of those with one touchdown and two interceptions. The five completions and 33.1 passing rating when attempting those deeper throws are both the lowest in the NFL.
With the defense playing pretty good football of late – no opponent has scored more than 16 points against them the last three games – Detroit offense, particularly the passing component, needs to carry more of their weight the rest of the season.
Campbell didn't mince any words this week when asked where he'd like to see the biggest improvement offensively the rest of the season: "Look, our pass game has got to get much better, much more improved."