Should the Detroit Lions run the ball more?

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Ameer Abdullah
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Ameer Abdullah /

In the past, the Detroit Lions have found success despite possessing a lackluster rushing attack. Does that mean the team should run the ball more or less?

It can be argued that the Detroit Lions haven’t had a legitimate rushing attack since the days of Barry Sanders. But since the Great One retired in 1999, the Lions have only had three running backs rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Those names are: James Stewart (2000, 2002), Kevin Jones (2004) and Reggie Bush (2013). And this season appears to be no different as starting running back Ameer Abdullah has only been able to rack up 342 rushing yards and one touchdown in six games.

But the Motor City hasn’t needed a significant rushing attack to win ball games as of late. In fact, the Lions have been to the playoffs twice in the last three seasons with a rushing offense ranked 28th in the NFL or lower. This year, Detroit’s rushing attack sits exactly at 28th, so they are on their normal track.

But as every Lion fans knows, the team also hasn’t posted a playoff victory since 1992. And the lack of a reliable ground game is likely one of the culprits as to why. So should Detroit actually try to run the ball more? Even with the most expensive player in NFL history, quarterback Matthew Stafford, under center?

According to the numbers, the answer is a resounding yes.

So far this season, the Lions have found the most success on the ground against the Arizona Cardinals in Week One (82 rushing yards), the New York Giants in Week Two (138 yards) and the Minnesota Vikings in Week Four (97 yards). Detroit came away with victories in all three games.

The Lions three lowest rushing totals so far this season, against the Atlanta Falcons in Week Two (71 yards), the Carolina Panthers in Week Five (50 yards) and the New Orleans Saints in Week Six (66 yards), were all losses.

In Detroit’s three victories this season, they attempted to run the ball on average 30 times per game. In their three losses, that average dropped to just 17.6 carries a game.

Next: Are the Lions tipping their hand with running backs?

Obviously, game situations, the score, game-planning, defensive coverages, the success of the rushing attack early and several other factors ultimately determine if the Lions elect to stick with the running game or not. But according to the numbers this season, Detroit seems to win when they are committed to getting their ground game going.