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The Detroit Lions haven’t run the ball like that in nearly 30 years

The Lions’ running game accomplished something they did just once during the Barry Sanders era.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday was a breakthrough performance; not just for Kerryon Johnson, but the entire Detroit Lions running game.

We haven’t seen that kind of rushing attack for quite some time. There are so many ways to quantify how impressive the Lions’ 248-yard performance was against the Dolphins, but instead of pointing out just one or two Justin Tucker-esque eye-opening statistics, let’s dump a whole bunch of them in one spot and revel in the awesomeness of having established a running game.

Team stats

The Lions’ 248 rushing yards on Sunday was the the third-best rushing performance (by yards) of any team in the NFL. Of the four teams that have rushed for over 240 yards in a game, the Lions’ 7.1 yards per carry was second best.

But the real eye-popping stats come when comparing Sunday’s performance to the franchise’s history:

That’s right: The Lions’ rushing performance was the best we’ve seen in nearly 30 years. It was a performance we only saw once during the Barry Sanders era. Sunday was very, very, very special.

Even by a pure yardage standpoint, the Lions put up their best effort in 20 years. Their 248 rushing yards was the best team performance since November 23, 1997.

Kerryon Johnson

The man at the forefront of the day also had a pretty special performance. Obviously, he established a number of career highs with 19 rushing attempts, 158 yards and 8.3 yards per carry. However, he set some pretty impressive franchise marks, too.

His 77-yard run was the longest this team has seen since... you guessed it: Jahvid Best’s memorable 88-yard touchdown run against the Bears in 2011. It was also the second-longest of any run in the NFL this season.

Season stats

All offseason, Lions fans were saying they’d be ecstatic if Detroit could just get an average running game. Well, I’m sorry to say the Lions do not have an average running game, they have a very good one.

Overall, the Lions currently rank 11th in rushing yards, which is just okay. However, when it comes to efficiency stats, they are near the top of the league. Only four teams are better than their 4.9 yards per carry: The Panthers, the Broncos, the 49ers and the Cowboys.

As for Mr. Johnson, he’s now eighth in rushing yards (444, having played fewer games than many of the players above him). There is only a single running back averaging more yards per carry than Kerryon right now. Johnson is at 6.4 yards per carry, while 49ers running back Matt Breida is averaging 6.5.

He’s also doing pretty damn well when it comes to advanced statistics. Coming into Week 7, he was already first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (they update on Tuesdays). And after Sunday’s performance, he’s a top five running back per Pro Football Focus:

Welcome to the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, Kerryon.

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