• Tony Bonk

Lions Yards Per Play - From 8th to Cardinals Bad

The Lions went from 8th in yards per play during the September and October to 30th the second half of the year. The second half was so bad they finished 25th overall (average of per game yard per play), and without the defensive improvement their record could have been worse than 3-6 in that stretch.

They went from top 10 to bottom 5 and fired their Offensive Coordinator (and still searching for new one as of writing), so what happen?

Three things played key roles:

1. Golden Tate Trade

2. Injuries, with TJ Lang, Kerryon Johnson, and Marvin Jones all to IR

3. Schedule (4 games vs Chi and Min in the last 9)

Story of Two Seasons

Since 2014 the Lions were near average in Yards Per Play, flirting with top 10 and middle of the pack during Caldwell's coaching tenure in Detroit. The first two months of the year they were 8th in the league, averaging 6.2 yards per play with two excellent offensive games against Dallas (7.6) and Miami (8.0), giving both the worse yards per play they'd experienced on defense all year.

Many Loins fans expected their team to lay an egg in Miami after they bye; Lions favored on the road?!?! But they were pleasantly surprised and thrilled with their offensive balance and new running game. However, after Halloween it was a different story. The 6.2 yards per play per-game average dropped to 4.7, starting with a drop-off to 3.5 the game after Tate was traded.


Compounding the issue of losing their top WR who lead the team in yards and had 26.6% of receptions before his trade, the injuries mounted up.

TJ Lang was banged up all year, with concussions, back, and hip concerns and finally went on IR after week the Minnesota game. Not far behind was standout rookie RB Kerryon Johnson and starting WR Marvin Jones. Four starting pieces were now gone from the first half to second and it showed in their yards per play. Good depth, excellent coaching, or a friendly schedule coulee potentially mitigate those loses but not this year. Which brings us to the final key takeaway, the second half schedule.


The schedule did not help, games against Chicago and Minnesota made up half of the Lions second-half schedule. If the schedule was different you could argue their 8th ranked yards per play would have been lower, but the Lions would argue it would have been a different story with all their pieces in those games.

See for Yourself

Click the image above to go to the visualization or click here. It shows how the Lions dipped at mid-year, feel free to play with it to view other teams and how they compare (like the Browns in the second half of the year).


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