Having watched the Lions through seven games, it seems to me that one of the areas where the offense has struggled mightily is on drives in the red zone (within 20 yards of the opponent's goal line).
I took a look at what has happened so far on every drive this season where the ball was snapped in the red zone, to try to get a sense of what is happening. Here are the stats:
26 drives in the red zone
14 resulting in a touchdown as follows:
3 Stafford running (our goal line threat LOL), 2 Broyles passing, 2 Burleson passing, 1 Young passing, 1 Johnson passing (Hill as QB), 1 Smith passing, 1 Pettigrew passing, 1 Bell running, 1 Leshoure running, 1 Smith running
5 resulting in a field goal
1 sack leading to a turnover on downs (4Q vs. Vikings)
1 failed QB sneak to end game on 4th down (OT vs. Titans - Hill as QB)
2 fumbles recovered by the opponent (Leshoure on 1st and 10 at Chicago 18 yard line, Bell on 2nd and 1 at Chicago 1 yard line)
1 successful 2-point conversion (Burleson vs. Titans)
2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. (I just wanted to see if you were paying attention still)
The maximum number of points (without factoring possible 2 point conversions) would be 182 (or 26 X 7).
We have 115 points earned in the red zone (14 TDs, 5 field goals, one 2 point conversion). It's not terrible but it is not world-beating either.
On TeamRankings.com, it shows that in 2010, Detroit had a red zone scoring percentage (TD only) of 64.44%, which was good for second in the league behind Indy. Last year, Detroit led all teams with a 66.13 % of red zone drives ending in a touchdown. This year so far it is 53.85%, good for 14th in the league. The worst teams are usually somewhere around 30%.
On the whole, it is a good news / bad news story. The bad news is that the Lions are reaching the red zone less than 4 times per game, and 7 turnovers out of 26 drives is too high. And the 10%+ decline in red zone production from the past two years amounts to about 3 touchdowns that could have affected the outcome of any game, since all four losses came by a score or less. When opponents are committing extra defenders to Megatron, either to jam him at the line of scrimmage or bracket him in the end zone, it has been effective at keeping him from scoring. An offensive pass interference on him and a couple of (debatable) drops on would-be touchdown passes have also hurt his individual stats so far. (He is still productive in the red zone, making at least four catches that set up first and goal.)
The good news is the last two games, Broyles and Young have combined for four touchdown catches and no red zone drops. If they can be consistent weapons near the goal line, it will create additional mismatches. Also, we have three different running backs who have run one in for a touchdown, and Smith sealed a game with a nice leak-out catch against the Rams. These developments along with the performance from the previous two years gives me some hope that our red-zone performance will improve over the remainder of the schedule.