Worst to first. That's the improvement the Detroit Lions have seen from their power rushing game through five games this season vs. what it was a year ago.
In 2017, the Lions converted on their 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 rushing attempts just 50 percent of the time (7-of-14). The 14 attempts were the third lowest in the league, a testament to how little confidence the offense had in converting those situations on the ground.
In fact, quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted the second most passes in the NFL last season (10) on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1. Only Green Bay's Brett Hundley (12) attempted more.
This season has been a completely different story.
So far in 2018, the Lions lead the NFL with a 100 percent success rate on those 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 situations. Detroit is a perfect 5-for-5. Stafford has only attempted two passes in those situations.
"I think when I look back at our team last year, all those critical situations, like it's goal line, we can't run the ball like half a yard. That bothered me," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said after last season.
So, he did something about it.
Quinn signed veteran running back LeGarrette Blount, who at 247 pounds has brought some physicality to Detroit's backfield. If we count all 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th & 1 runs this season. Blount has converted 6-of-7 times with a couple touchdowns.
Quinn also solidified the interior of his offensive line by drafting Frank Ragnow in the first round and running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round. He also added a fullback to the offense.
All of it has put the power running element back into the Lions' offense.
"I think that's an important situation in these close games, in these tight games," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Tuesday of the power run game. "One that our guys are doing a nice job of executing their role, executing their job each week.
"That's been a productive thing for our offense keeping us on the field, creating first downs and keeping us out there to keep going. It's been a positive. We need to keep improving, keep working on it, keep it a positive as we go forward. There will be ups and downs as we go through the year, different challenges every defense makes you face. We'll keep working to improve and try to keep things headed in the right direction."
Pro Football Focus Week 5 stats:
Top 3 graded players on offense by Pro Football Focus vs. Packers (at least 10 snaps):
- WR Kenny Golladay (89.6)
- QB Matthew Stafford (78.2)
- WR Golden Tate (67.0)
Bottom 3 graded players on offense by Pro Football Focus vs. Packers (at least 10 snaps):
- G Kenny Wiggins (29.1)
- TE Levine Toilolo (49.1)
- RB LeGarrette Blount (51.0)
Top 3 graded players on defense by Pro Football Focus vs. Packers (at least 10 snaps):
- DL Da'Shawn Hand (81.7)
- LB Christian Jones (71.4)
- DT Ricky Jean Francois (70.5)
Bottom 3 graded players on defense by Pro Football Focus vs. Packers (at least 10 snaps):
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (31.7)
- CB Darius Slay (37.2)
- CB DeShawn Shead (40.0)
Here are some other statistics, both good and bad, for the Lions after six weeks of football:
- When it comes to Detroit's passing yards distribution, receivers are accounting for 79.3 percent of their passing yards. That's the highest percentage in the league.
- Miami return man Jakeem Grant, who the Lions play Sunday, has both a punt return and kickoff return touchdown this season. He's averaging 34.4 yards per kickoff return and 17.9 yards per punt return. The Lions have struggled covering kicks for most of this season. Opponents are averaging 21.9 yards per punt return on the Lions this season, the highest average in the league.
- Detroit's had the second fewest 3 & out drives(7) in the NFL (Los Angeles Rams — 5).
- The Lions rank 20th in the league with a turnover differential of minus-1.
- Wide receiver Golden Tate's 12 receptions on third down are the fourth most in the NFL.
- The red zone defense for the Lions has been pretty good this season. Detroit currently ranks eighth in the NFL with a red-zone percentage of just 44.4.
- Linebacker Devon Kennard ranks in the top 10 in the NFL with 5.0 sacks this season. Danielle Hunter and J.J. Watt lead the league with 7.0.