Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Lions Leave Their Mark

By Eric Goska
Lions are territorial animals, and the pride that showed up at Lambeau Field Monday night roamed with untamed abandon.

In swatting aside the Green Bay Packers 30-17, the Detroit Lions staked claim to the Packer’s side of the field as seldom before. The majority of the Lions’ plays originated beyond the 50-yard line, and Detroit ran at least two plays in Green Bay territory on every possession.

In recent weeks, the Packers’ defense has struggled. The unit surrendered 485 yards to the Saints and 417 to the Lions.

What has provided some intrigue is the creative ways in which these shortcomings can be measured. In New Orleans, the defense was subjected to the full monty (trampled upon for 100 or more yards in each quarter). Against Detroit, Dom Capers’ unit often played dead as the Lions repeatedly toyed with it beyond midfield.

Detroit ran 67 offensive plays. A total of 43 of those snaps (64.2 percent) were run on Green Bay’s side of the field.

That percentage is high for this series. Since 1945, the Lions have bettered it only twice.

On Jan. 2, 1983, the Lions initiated 47 of 69 offensive plays (68.1) beyond midfield.  On Oct. 28, 1973, it did so on 46 of 70 plays (65.7).

Not surprisingly, Detroit won both games. The Lions are 11-1 against the Packers over the last 73 years when they own a percentage greater than 58.

The Lions had the ball eight times in their latest outing. In order, they ran 4, 3, 7, 6, 4, 8, 2 and 9 plays in Green Bay territory.

Eight drives. Eight advances with stops in Packerland.

That’s perfection.

Batting 100 percent had eluded Detroit in the last 73 years of this series. Since 1945, it had come closest on Nov. 22, 1984 (9 of 10 drives) and Sept. 8, 1991 (8 of 9).

Four players carried Detroit across the line that halves the football field. Receiver Golden Tate (2), tight ends Eric Ebron (2) and Darren Fells, and running back Theo Riddick each caught passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford to cross over.

In addition, the Lions twice started from beyond the 50 following fourth-down failures by the Packers. Detroit got underway at the Green Bay 47 in the third quarter after Brett Hundley’s pass to Randall Cobb lost three yards. It started at the Green Bay 45 after Hundley failed to connect with Davante Adams in the final period.

With the Lions spending so much time prowling about, they never punted. For Sam Martin, it marked the first time in 66 career regular-season games that his kicking leg was idle.

The zero punts by the Lions was a first for the rivalry as well. In 173 previous regular-season meetings, Detroit (and before it the Portsmouth Spartans) had always punted at least once dating to 1930.

For all the time Detroit spent in Green Bay territory, it also enjoyed success on its side of the field. In 24 plays that originated there, the team gained 211 yards (8.8 average).

A good chunk of that came on a 63-yard, fourth-quarter pass from Stafford to Riddick that carried to the Green Bay 12. Two plays later, Stafford found Marvin Jones Jr. in the end zone and the Lions roared ahead 27-10.

The Packers and Lions next tangle on New Year’s Eve. Should Green Bay’s defense be inclined to have a similar breach, it might allow the Lions to break the series’ season record set in 1982 for the greatest percentage of Lions’ plays (65.1) run on the Green and Gold’s side of the field (95 of 146).

Leaving Their Scent
Since 1945, the 7 games in which the Lions ran at least one offensive play in Packers’ territory on more than 80 percent of their drives. A drive, in this case, consists of at least one offensive play.

Percent           Date                      Result
100.0 (8-8)      Nov. 6, 2017         GB lost 17-30
90.0 (9-10)      Nov. 22, 1984       GB lost 28-31
87.5 (7-8)        Sept. 8, 1991         GB lost 14-23
84.6 (11-13)    Nov. 28, 2013       GB lost 10-40
83.3 (10-12)    Nov. 21, 1954       GB lost 17-21
81.8 (9-11)      Dec. 21, 1980        GB lost 3-24
81.8 (9-11)      Sept. 30, 1990       GB won 24-21

Since 1945, the 7 games in which the Lions ran more than 60 percent of their offensive plays in Packers’ territory.

Percent           Date                      Result
68.1 (47-69)    Jan. 2, 1983           GB lost 24-27
65.7 (46-70)    Oct. 28, 1973        GB lost 0-34
64.2 (43-67)    Nov. 6, 2017         GB lost 17-30
64.2 (34-53)    Dec. 20, 1970        GB lost 0-20
63.9 (39-61)    Sept. 30, 1990       GB won 24-21
62.3 (48-77)    Dec. 12, 1982        GB lost 10-30
60.3 (35-58)    Nov. 20, 1988       GB lost 9-19

1 comment:

  1. ...another superb article by the most knowledgeable Packer historian in America. congrats Eric....look forward to the next article.