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Evaluating Lions' 3 Worst Rushing Games in 2021

Read more on the Detroit Lions' three worst rushing games from the 2021 season.

Earlier this week, we looked at the three best rushing games the Lions had in 2021, and today, we flip the coin and look at the three worst team rushing performances of the past season.

There is no question that this is not your grandpa’s NFL anymore. It’s no longer a game of “three yards and a cloud of dust.”

Selecting running backs in the first round of the draft has even decreased through the years, while the percentage of passes on a weekly basis has increased.

Just last season, according to teamrankings.com, all 32 teams in the NFL passed the ball between 50.13 percent of the time (Eagles) and 66.46 percent (Buccaneers).

The Lions checked in at 59.56 percent.

How often did Detroit throw the ball in its three worst rushing performances of the season? Too much, if you ask me.

1.) Bengals 34, Lions 11

Date: October 17, 2021 

Venue: Ford Field

Detroit rushing yards: 36 yards (18 carries)

Average yards per rush: 2.0 yards

Passing attempts: 42

The first thing that stood out re-watching this painful, methodical beatdown was the lack of commitment to the run by the Lions.

The second thing that jumped off the screen was Detroit tried to get too cute running the ball. 

It ran draw plays, delayed draws, pitches to the outside and even ran an end-around to D'Andre Swift that sputtered.

Speaking of Swift, he was noticeably hesitant in the holes, and he overdid it with the unproductive shake-and-bake.

Only two of Detroit’s running backs saw action: Swift had 13 carries for 24 yards, and Jamaal Williams carried the rock four times for 11 yards.

The Lions' offense felt out of sync the entire game, and quarterback Jared Goff did not use the play-action fake either that often.

The more the score got out of hand, the more Detroit abandoned the run, and it played right into Cincinnati’s hand.

2.) Eagles 44, Lions 6

Date: October 31, 2021 

Venue: Ford Field

Detroit rushing yards: 57 yards (18 carries)

Average yards per rush: 3.2 yards

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Passing attempts: 34

This game was all but over after the second quarter, as the Eagles jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead.

On their first offensive play, the Lions threw the football and set the tone for the game, as they were not committed to the run again.

The tell-tale sign was toward the end of the second quarter. Detroit had a fourth-and-inches play, with 0:13 to go (and one remaining timeout), from Philadelphia’s 21-yard line. And, the Lions tried to pass, and Goff got sacked.

Swift was embarrassingly the leading rusher for the Lions, with 12 soft-looking carries for 27 yards. Backup runner Jermar Jefferson added two carries for six yards, and Godwin Igwebuike, who ran with the most authority of any runner in this game, chipped in with three carries for 18 yards.

Goff ran a few play-actions before passing, but it was useless without being able to establish the run.

The score snowballed in the second half, as 24-0 turned into 38-0 and then later 44-6. This came after Jefferson got a rare rushing attempt and turned it into a short touchdown run. 

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3.) Bears 16, Lions 14

Date: November 25, 2021 

Venue: Ford Field

Detroit rushing yards: 76 yards (19 carries)

Average yards per rush: 4.0 yards

Passing attempts: 25

I am starting to sound like a broken record, but once again, Detroit came out throwing on its first four offensive plays. Once again, the Lions did not commit to the run game

Detroit's backs struggled to clear the line of scrimmage too many times in this Thanksgiving Day matchup. 

The icing on the cake was a draw play on third-and-32, more than halfway through the second quarter. Williams proceeded to barely get back to the line of scrimmage.

Again, Goff ran a few more play-actions, but it didn’t fool anybody.

Williams managed to hammer out 65 yards on 15 carries, Igwebuike had one carry for 11 yards and Swift was blanked, with three carries for zero yards. 

Williams and Igwebuike ripped off a couple nice, decisive-looking runs up the gut in the second half, but it was too late.

Are there any takeaways from these three games?

Yes. In these three games, Detroit failed to commit to establishing the run.

Another glaring common theme is Detroit’s three worst team rushing performances came at home.

The biggest takeaway, though, is that when this team tries to get too cute running the ball, it goes nowhere.