The Detroit Lions need to get their ground game back on track, and Sunday against the Chicago Bears is a nice spot for a rebound.
During the stretch where they won six of seven games, it lingered somewhere in the background. In Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers, it was not spotlighted as the defense allowed 320 rushing yards in a bad, playoff odds crushing loss. But make no mistake, the Detroit Lions’ run game is struggling.
Over their last eight games, as noted by Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News, the Lions are averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Against Carolina, they averaged a season-low 2.6 yards per carry.
The eight-game stretch of downward trend in Detroit’s run game coincides with the trade of T.J. Hockenson. While not highly regarded as a blocker, the Lions averaged (as noted by Bianchi) 5.2 yards over their first eight games (seven Hockenson played in before the trade to Minnesota).
Brock Wright has stepped into a bigger role with Hockenson gone. Pro Football Focus has him graded out as the Lions’ second-worst run blocker this year.
Despite a pretty large sample of a downturn now, the Lions are still averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season–the franchise’s highest mark there since 1998.
Week 17 against Bears a prime rebound spot for Detroit Lions’ run game
Back in Week 10 against the Bears, the Lions only averaged a little over three yards per carry (31 attempts for 95 yards) with two touchdowns on the ground. That turned out to be a early indicator of how things would go on the ground over the last several weeks.
The Bears enter Week 17 with the NFL’s 30th-ranked run defense (151.2 yards allowed per game), and the 4.9 yards per carry they’re allowing is bottom-10 in the league. Over their last five games, Chicago has allowed 169.6 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry.
A combination of factors have led to the Lions’ dropoff in the run game lately, and the struggle has been mostly obscured externally by the good vibes of winning. But against a Bears’ defense that will probably rather be anywhere but Ford Field on New Year’s Day, it’s a prime spot to get the ground game back on a good roll. If it doesn’t happen, it will be an across the board failure.