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Detroit Lions: 3 Reasons They Need a Running Game to Contend

Josh HousmanCorrespondent IJune 2, 2016

Detroit Lions: 3 Reasons They Need a Running Game to Contend

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    The Lions have not lived up to expectations so far in 2012, this much we know. But why has their loaded offense not been able to carry the load this far? 

    They currently rank third in the NFL in total yards, as well as second in the NFL in pass yards. However, they come in at 24th in rushing yards.  

    While their passing offense is clearly elite, here's why they will need a solid running game if they want to contend.

1. Strength of Schedule

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    The Lions will need a strong run game if they don't want teams keying in on Matt Stafford and their pass offense.

    Eight of the 12 teams that are left on their schedule rank in the top 14 in yards allowed per carry as a rushing defense, and six of the 12 rank in the top 13 in total rushing defense. 

    The Lions have been cursed with bad luck, coming up against the stout run defenses of the Vikings and Bears twice as a part of the NFC North.

    If they don't want these teams to pass rush in heavy doses and knock Matt Stafford down consistently, they will need to be respected on the ground.  

2. Safety Valve

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    The Lion's passing game is very vertical.

    Calvin Johnson is one of the best deep threats in the game, whilst Nate Burleson and  Titus Young provide two very nice complementary options to space the field. 

    Even tight end Brandon Pettigrew is vertical receiver compared to many other tight ends around the league. Who does Matt Stafford look to when he needs a check down?

    An established running back would not only free up space for all of his down-field threats to operate, but would also give quarterback Matt Stafford a much needed check-down on heavy pass blitzes and when coverage is tight down the field. 

3. Hold onto the Ball

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    For the third ranked offense in yards in the NFL, the Lions have a very weak time of possession differential.

    They have an average of 32 minutes and 54 seconds of possession per game, while their opponents average 29 minutes and 11 seconds. 

    A stronger run game would give them more time of possession and keep opponents off the field for longer periods of time, allowing their shaky defense to rest. 

    Hopefully, rookie Mikel Leshoure will continue to emerge as a solid running option for the Lions so that they can continue to let their passing offense shine.

    Keeping Matt Stafford on his feet and their opponents off the ball will be the key.

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