ALLEN PARK — If you’ve been paying attention, it should come as no surprise that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has the least run support of any of the top five NFL quarterbacks.
“I still believe that the running game is a quarterback’s best friend. I coached those guys enough to know, but I do think that there are sometimes when you look at the makeup of your team you know that your quarterback can carry you too, which he’s been able to do,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Tuesday. “Some quarterbacks you can’t depend on to carry you in times like that, so he’s shown that he can do so anyway was you present it to him, he can find a way to get it done and that’s helpful. But still, I still, I’m not backing down from the point that we still need to be able to run the ball where we’re respectable.”
Respectable does not quite describe the Lions run game that average 3.4 yards per carry.
The run game needs to step up on Thanksgiving against the Minnesota Vikings (8-2) in a huge NFC North battle.
The Lions (6-4) won the first matchup at the Vikings on Oct. 1, 14-7. In that game Ameer Abdullah ran for a season-high 94 yards including a 3-yard touchdown scamper.
“I think our guys did a great job up front. Got downhill on those guys, and Ameer made some great runs if you remember. I mean, that touchdown run, he got hit in the back field and did a great job. There were a couple others where he had some big ones,’’ Stafford said. “… He bounced out on the left edge and got loose. So, those big runs help a lot too. So, you see those numbers, you can attain those kind of any way you want. They all count.”
Stafford ranks fifth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,760. The LIons run game ranks 28th with just 808 total rushing yards (3.4 yards per carry).
In comparison, here’s how it goes for the top four quarterbacks: Tom Brady has 3,146 passing yards while the Patriots’ run game has 1,060 yards (3.9 yards per carry); Russell Wilson has 2,801 passing yards with 1,042 rushing yards (4.0) from offense; Kirk Cousins is at 2,796 passing yards with 1,026 (3.9) rushing yards from offense; and Drew Brees with 2,783 passing yards and 1,440 (4.8) from New Orleans’ run game.
Glaring statistics. It’s not like the Lions’ run game has not been a concern. It has been an issue all season and going back a few years.
The coaching staff was counting on good numbers with Abdullah and Theo Riddick both healthy but it hasn’t worked out that way.
Stafford said opposing defenses don’t do anything special to stuff the run game.
“I think, you see around the league, a lot of people run a lot of the same plays — both passing the ball and running the ball. Just certain weeks, teams have more success for one reason or another at passing or running,’’ Stafford said. “It’s the game of football. It’s an imperfect game. Everybody’s out there fighting tooth and nail for an inch, and sometimes it happens a little bit better for you than others.”
Stafford said he doesn’t think about the success the Lions could have with a consistent run game.
“I just go out there and play. Everybody on our team is trying to do the best job they can, myself included, and we’ll go from there,’’ Stafford said.