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The Lions’ red zone offense was absolutely embarrassing vs. Steelers

A statistical breakdown of just how bad the Lions’ red zone offense was on Sunday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind why the Detroit Lions lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday: it was their pathetic red zone offense. Detroit outgained the Steelers on a per down basis. They won the turnover battle. Hell, they even rushed for a better yards per carry average than the Steelers.

But the Detroit Lions drove it down to the Steelers’ red zone five times on Sunday night and came away with a total of nine points. That is your entire ballgame.

But that doesn’t even begin to describe just how awful the Lions’ offense was once it was in a position to score. Even the fact that the Lions’ 482 yards of total offense was the third most by any non-touchdown scoring team doesn’t do it justice.

No, let’s break down just how bad this offense was in every statistical way we can.

Inside the Steelers’ 30-yard line

The Lions’ offensive issues started well before the goal line. Once Detroit seemed to cross over onto Pittsburgh’s side of the field, everything fell apart.

Specifically, the Lions could not do anything once they crossed the Steelers’ 30-yard line.

In their first 11 plays from that distance (the entire first half), the Lions actually had more penalty yards (20) than they did offensive yards (18).

Things obviously didn’t get much better in the second half. For the entire game, the Lions averaged just 2.88 yards per play within the 30, as opposed to 6.99 yards per play on every other down.

Inside the red zone

Let’s zoom in a little closer and see how Detroit did when they were inside the arbitrarily set “red zone” (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line).

17 plays
9 yards

9. Total. Yards.

Obviously when you get closer to the end zone, there are fewer yards to gain, so you’re going to average less yards per play. However, only three of those 17 plays gained more than a single yard on Sunday.

And to make matters worse, the Lions had more penalty yards (10) in the red zone than total yards (9). That is awfully embarrassing.

Breaking down the play calls

While I’m not going into the specific playcalling (yet), here’s a look at what Jim Bob Cooter and Matthew Stafford cooked up in the red zone.

17 total plays
12 passing plays
5 rushing plays

12 passing plays
Matthew Stafford: 2-11, 6 yards, 1 sack

5 rushing plays
Dwayne Washington: 4 rushes, 6 yards
Theo Riddick: 1 rush, -2 yards

Goal line

This is where games can be won and lost. On a couple occasions, Detroit found themselves just a few yards away from finally hitting paydirt, but as you already know, they failed to cross the goal line even once. Here’s the breakdown when the Lions got within five yards of a touchdown.

  • 7 total plays, 5 yards
  • Matthew Stafford: 0-2, 1 sack
  • 4 rushes, 6 yards


The problems here run wide. There are playcalling issues. There are issues with the running game. There are issues with personnel decisions. There are quarterbacking issues and offensive line issues. There are drops and receivers not getting enough separation.

In other words, things are currently a mess, and if the 3-4 Lions have any plans on contending with the Vikings this year, their time to clean it up is extremely limited.