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What Stafford was up against
- Injuries– Stafford’s toughness and will to compete is far beyond critique at this point. This is now seven consecutive seasons without missing a game, despite a new injury on seemingly a weekly basis around the midway point. Stafford deserves a ton of credit for having the type of year that he had despite being obviously hampered much of the time.
- Offensive Line (pass protection)– The major free agent signings of last off-season, TJ Lang and Rick Wagner, failed to boost this unit of the offense in any meaningful way. Stafford endured a career high 47 sacks this year. Only Jacoby Brissett and Tyrod Taylor were sacked more times. For a comparison point, NFC playoff quarterbacks Drew Brees (20), Case Keenum (22), Matt Ryan (24), and Jared Goff (25) took about half as many hits as #9.
- Offensive Line (running game) In addition to QB protection problems, the O-line couldn’t forge a capable rushing attack of any kind. For the 2nd time in the past three seasons, the Lions finished dead last in the NFL in total rushing yards. The one dimensional offense allowed opponents to load up to stop Stafford, yet he was still able to carve up defenses regularly.
- Running Backs- I’m piling on the offensive line quite a bit here, but the ball carriers also need to shoulder some of the responsibility. Ameer Abdullah was disappointing. Theo Riddick was a great pass catching option, but couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Undrafted Tion Green was the team’s leading rusher over the final five weeks…averaging less than 35 yards per game.
Detroit doesn’t need a top 10 ground game to be true contenders in the NFC, but they certainly can’t be dead last. What will it take to get this portion of the offense to carry their weight?