The rushing statistics continue to move in the wrong direction for the Detroit Lions.
After gaining just 53 yards on 15 attempts in their Thanksgiving Day loss to Minnesota last week, Detroit's average yards per game on the ground this season dropped to 78.3, which ranks 30th in the NFL. The league average is 108.5.
The totals through 12 games are disappointing considering the time, effort and resources the Lions spent this offseason trying to improve that portion of their offense.
It appears the Lions will continue to go as quarterback Matthew Stafford's right arm goes.
Detroit's streak of games without a 100-yard rusher now dates back over four years, when Reggie Bush had 117 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 28, 2013.
The Lions aren't built to be a running football team that chews up 150 yards with any kind of consistency. They throw the football to set up the run. But in the stretch run of the season, with weather potentially playing a factor in Baltimore and Cincinnati in December, the Lions have to find some kind of balance where teams at least respect their ability to run the football.
Detroit's shown they can be efficient in that department at times, but it's been way too inconsistent.
Is it a scheme problem? It it performance? Is it a combination of both?
"You have to realistically look at it and examine both," Caldwell said. "I mean, that's kind of always part of what we do, that's part of coaching. You have to make a decision, a determination on whether or not it is more scheme. Maybe the guys cannot execute what you're asking them to do, or is it something else, strictly performance.
"So, there's always a delicate balancing act there, and I think that's part of what we do and we got to be able to get them to the point where they're comfortable at what we're doing, but also they're able to execute it extremely well."
Only 37 percent of all Detroit's rushes gain at least four yards. Caldwell has always used 4.0 yards per carry as a benchmark. The Lions are averaging 3.4 yards per carry through 11 games. Only Cincinnati (3.2) and Arizona (3.0) are worse.
Detroit's 41 rushes for negative yardage are the second most in the league.
There's not one area fans can point to as being the main culprit, either. The offensive line has to be better, the running backs need to be better and the coaches have to put the players in a position where everyone can be better.
The Lions have five games remaining in their push for the NFC playoffs.
Green Bay has the best run defense remaining on the schedule. They rank 11th stopping the run. Tampa Bay is 14th, Chicago 16th, Baltimore 23rd and Cincinnati 28th.
It would be helpful to the offense down the stretch if the Lions could take some of the burden off Stafford and the passing game by being just efficient running the ball.
Here's a look at some other key stats – good and bad – after 12 weeks of football:
- Stafford has a 128.3 passer rating when throwing the ball at least 21 yards in the air. He has six touchdowns and no interceptions on those passes this season.
- With 282 passing yards on Thanksgiving, Stafford surpassed Peyton Manning (33,189) for the most career passing yards before the age of 30, per the Elias Sports Bureau. In 120 career games, Stafford has racked up 33,345 yards.
- The Lions average 4.09 yards gained on 1st down, the lowest total in the NFL. The league average is 5.3 yards.
- Detroit pass catchers are dropping catchable passes just 4.2 percent of the time, which is eighth best in the NFL.
- Over the past two years, kicker Matt Prater has made a league-best 14 50-plus-yard field goals.
- Detroit is converting on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 just 30.8 percent of the time. The league average is 67.3 percent.
- When the Lions get an opponent in a 3rd and 10 or more situation, they've been very good this season. On average, teams convert in those situations 19 percent of the time. Against the Lions, they convert just 9.3 percent of the time. That's the second best percentage in the league.
- The Lions have the sixth most plays of 20-plus yards (48) in the NFL this season.
- Wide receiver Kenny Golladay recorded his fourth reception of 40-plus yards on Thanksgiving, which leads all rookies in the NFL.