Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are one of the most disappointing NFL teams in 2012 thus far with a 2-3 record and a last place spot in the NFL North thanks to a woeful offense that has failed to live up to expectations.
Ironically enough, the statistical rankings for the Detroit offense are great. The Lions have a top five unit in terms of passing yardage and total yardage per game, but it is miserable in on the ground and only middle-of-the-pack in terms of points scored per game.
There are a variety of reasons that the Lions offense has failed to live up to expectations and has been inconsistent at best. Let's examine the reasons for the Lions' offensive woes.
Stafford has had serious issues living up to his 5,000-plus passing yards and 41 touchdowns from a year ago while embarrassing opponents, but a large part of his struggles are courtesy of those around him and their inability to catch passes.
The Lions' offense has elite numbers in the passing category, but also ranks in the top five in terms of dropped passes so far in 2012 according to The Washington Post.
It's scary to think how much better the Lions offense could be if players such as receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew could actually consistently reel in passes—especially in the red zone.
Red Zone Woes
For a variety of reasons, the Lions are having serious issues scoring once they find themselves inside the 20-yard line. They often end up settling for field goals instead of finding the end zone, and that has been the determining factor in several games already.
According to Teamrankings.com, the Lions are only scoring on 52 percent of their red zone appearances, a far cry from their 2011 average of 66 percent.
Through a combination of dropped passes and predictable play-calling, the Lions are having serious issues putting points on the board. Championship-caliber teams score touchdowns more often than simply settling for field goals, and that is what sets them apart from teams like the Lions.
The Lions have had some questionable execution in terms of run-blocking so far this season, but the atrocious play-calling from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has certainly not helped matters.
Linehan's predictable play-calling, especially with first-down running plays, has killed more than a few of the Lions' offensive drives this season—including a large quantity in the red zone.
Detroit has no running game to speak of, and the predictable run between the tackles on first down has forced the offense into obvious passing situations more often than not, which as we have covered, is struggling thanks to drops.
Calling a less predictable game will lead to a more diverse offense which will in turn lead to more points for the Lions.
It's not a measurable statistic, but the members of the offensive unit have simply looked complacent early in games, as if they were already leading by 14 or more points.
As games have wore on, the offense has performed better and with a sense of urgency—but not until Detroit is losing the game. If the offense performed with that same sense of urgency all game, we wouldn't be here breaking down why the Lions have a subpar offense. Rather, we would be praising an elite unit.
Not all is lost for the Lions offensively. Basic fundamentals can be cleaned up through proper coaching, and proper coaching can be found after studying old tape. The Lions' offense can return to 2011 form, but only if the players are willing to put in the hard work to get back there.