Lions Ranked Second in NFL in Explosive Plays

Can Detroit produce more explosive plays in 2024?
Lions running backs Jahmyr Gibbs, left, and David Montgomery.
Lions running backs Jahmyr Gibbs, left, and David Montgomery. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Detroit Lions' offense has become one of the league's best in two years under coordinator Ben Johnson.

Johnson and quarterback Jared Goff have proven to be an ideal pairing, as the veteran quarterback has performed at a high level since beginning to work with the talented offensive mind. A big part of the team's success has been its ability to generate explosive plays.

Last season, the Lions ranked near the top of the league in a number of categories, including explosive plays. Typically, an explosive play is defined by a gain of 20 or more yards. Detroit ranked second with 85, just one behind the league-leading San Francisco 49ers, which tallied 86.

Detroit scored on 16 of those explosive plays, a number that ranked behind only Miami in the league in 2023. The Lions have several players who are big-play threats, giving Goff plenty of weapons to distribute the ball to.

Though the offense was one of the most explosive in the league, Detroit's coaching staff has its sights set on improving in this area throughout the 2024 season.

"The one thing that’s really, I guess, opened my eyes is also explosiveness," said passing game coordinator Tanner Engstrand. "The explosive plays and the importance of it and we’re chasing that every week. So, I think that’s something that is at the forefront of our minds as well, as we’re trying to game plan and win these games, is how can we do that as well. I think that’s something that has been fostered, I suppose.” 

Johnson had so many weapons within his offense that four players were able to surpass 850 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns, a number that paced the NFL in 2023. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end Sam LaPorta and running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery each eclipsed this mark.

The Lions will have all four players back in the fold for 2024 and beyond, giving the offense a solid nucleus. Detroit is facing Super Bowl expectations for the upcoming season, and the amount of talent it possesses on the roster makes these not unfounded.

A big part of the offense's success is also the work of the offensive line. Detroit has one of the best collective units in the league. In addition to the line's ability to pave running lanes, the offensive line also ranked tied-for-fourth in terms of least amount of sacks allowed.

Detroit also had plenty of success against the run defensively. While the pass coverage struggled, the Lions' run-stopping efforts were among the best in the NFL. The Lions finished second in the league in 2023, with 88.8 yards per game allowed on the ground on average.

Even so, the Lions sought to improve their efforts against the run this year with the addition of top nose tackle free agent DJ Reader. Though Reader is still recovering from an injury suffered late last season, he is expected to play a major role for Detroit's defense.

The Lions were also among the best in the league at pinning their opponents deep. They, in fact, ranked first in average opposing starting field position.

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Christian Booher


Sports journalist who has covered the Detroit Lions the past three NFL seasons. Christian brings expert analysis, insights and an ability to fairly assess how the team is performing in a tough NFC North division.