Last week I took a look at five numbers from the 2013 season that need to change in order for the Detroit Lions to take a step closer to the playoffs this year.
It seems only fair that we also look at five numbers where the team excelled last year and take a closer look at how they can maintain those marks in 2014.
What it means: Total number of sacks allowed
NFL rank: 2
How to maintain: One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2013 season was the play from Detroit’s offensive line and it turned into the most consistent and productive unit on the team.
The Lions are projected to have the same starting offensive line of
Stafford is a quick decision maker and doesn't hold on to the ball too long. That, coupled with the offensive line play, makes for a pretty good relationship.
What it means: Opponents third down conversion percentage
NFL rank: 1
How to maintain: The Lions defense excelled on third down last season, limiting opponents to just 64 conversions on 211 attempts. The league average for third-down efficiency on defense was 38.1 percent.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is going to be much more aggressive this year and will bring pressure from all over the field. The Lions think they’ve upgraded at safety and linebacker this offseason, two important positions when it comes to maintaining their success on third-down defense.
What it means: Total yards per game by running backs
NFL rank: 3
Only San Diego (177.7) and New England (173.5) got more production week-in and week-out from their running backs.
The Lions averaged 105.6 rushing and 67.4 receiving yards from the position last year.
With one of the best offensive lines in football returning intact and the additions of receiver
What it means: Red zone touchdown efficiency percentage on defense
NFL rank: 2
How to maintain: Teams had a tough time trying to punch the football into the end zone once it got inside the 20-yard line. Considering the league average was 55.5 percent efficiency, the Lions’ number is even more impressive.
Teams did score the most points (187) on the Lions defense outside of the red zone, which is why their points allowed per game (23.5) isn’t in-line with their gaudy red-zone efficiency number.
The Lions will be more aggressive with their cornerbacks in man coverage this year and they think they have two good ones in
The Lions are going to attack teams all over the field and especially in the red zone when there isn’t a lot of room to work with.
One other note as it pertains to the Lions’ red-zone defense. They allowed a touchdown just 45.1 percent of the time in goal-to-go situations. That number is astounding, and certainly played into their overall touchdown efficiency numbers, considering the league average for defenses allowing a touchdown in goal-to-go situations was 70.5 percent.
What it means: Red zone touchdown percentage on offense
NFL rank: 4
How to maintain: The Lions can throw an intimidating line of receiving threats at a defense near the goal line with
Fauria made his mark in the red zone as a rookie catching seven touchdown passes with a combination of terrific size and soft hands. He'll pose a similar threat in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see what Ebron brings to the table in that regard, and we can always expect Tate to be a sure-handed option near the goal line.
It certainly seems possible the Lions could be even better in the red zone this upcoming season.