Detroit Lions’ rushing attack best in long time for the franchise in 2021

The Detroit Lions have long struggled to find a competent ground game, but in spite of challenges things were better this year.

The Detroit Lions never had the five starting offensive lineman they expected together for a game this season. At one point, Craig Reynolds became the fifth running back to get a carry and was productive during his run as the lead back.

The Lions have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013. That streak will extend to 2022, though D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Willams both cleared 600 yards on the ground this year. That 600-yard mark has been tough for a single Detroit back to get to, let alone get very far past, for many of recent years.

The Lions averaged 110.9 rushing yards per game this season (19th in the league), while averaging 4.4 yards per carry (tied for 11th in the league). Those marks aren’t incredible, but the yards per carry mark actually fell from a more robust 4.6 Detroit had for the season entering the final three games.

The Lions’ 2021 ground game was its best in nearly 20 years

The year was 2004. Steve Mariucci was in the second of what would be two full seasons as Lions’ head coach. Kevin Jones had 1,133 rushing yards as a rookie (13th in the league; also check out the list  of the league’s leading rushers that year). As noted by Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire, that was also the last year the Lions averaged more than 110 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry (111.1 yards per game, 4.4 yards per carry) before this year.

After head coach Dan Campbell took over play calling duties coming out of the Week 9 bye, the Lions averaged 116.9 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Over the full season, those marks would have been good for 16th and seventh-best in the league respectively.