It never ceases to amaze how some things can completely change for a football team over the course of an NFL season.
Take for instance the Detroit Lions' rushing defense since acquiring defensive tackle Damon Harrison via trade with the New York Giants five weeks ago.
Before Harrison's arrival, the Lions were struggling to stop the run. In three of the first four games the Lions were gashed for 160, 190 and 183 yards on the ground in losses to the Jets, 49ers and Cowboys. Detroit seemed to be giving up at least one long run on the ground per week. Without Harrison, opponents were averaging 139.3 yards per game on the ground.
Since his arrival, that number has gone down to 90.4. If we take out the Seattle game, which was Harrison's first game played after arriving in Detroit that Wednesday, the number goes down to 69.0 rushing yards per game allowed over Detroit's last four games.
The Lions have given up 148 yards on the ground total in the last three games. Twice over that stretch the longest gain for an opponent in a game was just 10 yards.
Head coach Matt Patricia has always approached defense from an inside out mentality of wanting to be strongest up the middle. Harrison has been Detroit's best player on defense over the last five weeks, and he also seems to be having an impact on young defensive linemen Da'Shawn Hand and A'Shawn Robinson, who are playing pretty good ball right now. All three players are graded among the top 19 interior defensive linemen by Pro Football Focus.
"Obviously done a great job for us helping us inside," Patricia said of the job Harrison's done over the last five games. "Just being a guy that has great experience to be in the middle. He's seen a lot of different blocks, he's seen a lot of different schemes and maybe helped settle some things down for some of the younger players we are trying to play there and some of the new guys to the scheme."
The Lions will certainly be challenged Sunday at Ford Field as they host the Los Angeles Rams and running back Todd Gurley, who is second in the NFL with 1,043 yards, and leads all running backs with 13 touchdown runs.
Pro Football Focus Week 12 stats:
Top 3 graded players on offense by Pro Football Focus vs. Chicago (at least 10 snaps):
- C Graham Glasgow (77.7)
- G Frank Ragnow (73.1)
- RB LeGarrette Blount (71.2)
Bottom 3 graded players on offense by Pro Football Focus vs. Chicago (at least 10 snaps):
- TE Michael Roberts (40.3)
- WR Andy Jones (43.5)
- TE Luke Willson (46.9)
Top 3 graded players on defense by Pro Football Focus vs. Chicago (at least 10 snaps):
- CB DeShawn Shead (81.0)
- S Quandre Diggs (75.2)
- DE Ziggy Ansah (73.6)
Bottom 3 graded players on defense by Pro Football Focus vs. Chicago (at least 10 snaps):
- LB Jarrad Davis (47.0)
- LB Christian Jones (52.1)
- DE Romeo Okwara (53.9)
Here are some other statistics, both good and bad, for the Lions after 12 weeks of football:
- The Lions rank 23rd in total offense and 13th in total defense.
- Detroit ranks 24th with a turnover differential of minus-six. Sunday's opponent, the Los Angeles Rams, rank third in the league with a turnover differential of plus-11.
- It's not surprising that Detroit ranks No. 1 in the NFL in field goal percentage against. Opponents are making just 61.9 percent of their field goals this season against Detroit.
- Detroit's 32 sacks on the year rank ninth in the NFL.
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford has three 300-yard passing performances in 11 games this season. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has seven such performances in 11 games.
- Opponents are averaging nearly double the league average per punt return on Detroit's special teams. The league average is 8.6 yards per punt return. The Lions are allowing 16.8 yards per punt return.