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Notes: Lions offense efficient, successful under Ben Johnson’s leadership

This is another Ben Johnson appreciation post.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

This week, Arjun Menon posted a couple of charts that highlight how effective the Lions offense has been this year under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Menon was part of a 2023 Big Data Bowl honorable mention team, has done analytics work for the New York Jets, and regularly posts and appears on podcasts talking about football data. The first, and most straightforward post, that most fans will intuitively understand, is the chart showing how often teams go three-and-out on offensive drives.

The Lions, with their third-ranked rushing offense averaging 4.7 yards per carry through 16 games, have the league’s lowest rate of going three-and-out. The first eight teams on the right hand side of that chart are all in the playoff mix, so this is definitely good company to be in. The next pair of charts have to do with looking at preparation/starting games well and adjusting throughout the game.

Menon plots the expected points added for scripted (first 15 offensive plays of the game) and non-scripted (everything else they run in the game) plays for each team. The distinction has to do with whether or not the plays are very early in the game where the team sets up specific sequences from the game plan to probe out what the opponent will do in this particular game to respond. To read the chart, the left-right X-axis is how good the team is in the early scripted part (farther right is better) and the up-down Y-axis is how good the team is later in the game (higher is better). So the upper right quadrant is the best and the lower left quadrant is the worst.

What do the Lions look like here? They are in the upper right, a bit to the right of the zero-line for scripted, and pretty far up on the non-scripted. This is great! The design of the offense is good, and Ben Johnson is reading what his opponent is doing really well. Someone in the thread asked about turnovers that mess with the scripting, so Menon posted that too:

When we focus specifically on the planning and play calling by removing the negative EPA swings from possession-changing plays, this looks even better. Johnson’s scripted plays turn out to be really excellent setting aside the on-field variability.

Now, on to the rest of your weekend Notes:

  • The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner and Colton Pouncy welcomed former co-host Chris Burke to the show for the NFC North championship recap episode of their podcast One of These Years. You can listen to the entire 63-minute audio in a web player on Spotify.

  • The Lions will be wearing all-white uniforms tonight against the Cowboys. It’s a good look for big road games: this is what they wore in their Week 1 victory over the Chiefs.

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