Lions offense showing improvement
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have shown promising signs of progress on offense in the past few weeks.
In Monday night's 35-27 win at New Orleans, Detroit (5-9) had perhaps its best offensive outing of the season.
Matthew Stafford was 22 of 25 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Nine different receivers caught at least one pass.
The Lions, who rank 31st in the league in rushing offense, got a major boost from their ground game against the Saints, gaining 150 yards and two scores.
''I feel like we are playing good complementary football,'' Stafford said. ''We aren't turning the ball over for the most part … and we are putting up points.
''But we have to be more consistent just like every other team in the NFL. When you go out and score 35 (points) on the road, you've got to feel good about that.''
Detroit scored fewer than 20 points in eight of its first 10 games, a stretch that including three straight sub-20 point performances to start Jim Bob Cooter's tenure as offensive coordinator.
But since then, the Lions have scored at least 23 points in three of four games, including a 45-10 blowout victory over the Eagles on Thanksgiving and Monday night's win over the Saints.
The offense is starting to come together under Cooter's control – thanks in large part, to the run and pass games working in tandem.
On Tuesday, Jim Caldwell recalled a specific third-and-1 conversion in the fourth quarter.
The Saints, expecting a quick pass to Calvin Johnson, double-teamed the receiver with a safety over the top.
But that safety wasn't in the box to lend run support, and Ameer Abdullah had a 27-yard gain off the edge.
''They were concentrated on Calvin that play, and … that opened up that alley even more,'' Caldwell said. ''The run was even more significant because the way in which they were playing Calvin. Those are the kinds of things that happen.''
Both Joique Bell and Abdullah had more than 70 yards against the Saints, and the Lions have rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the seven games since Cooter took over offensive coordinator duties.
Detroit is 4-2 when it rushes for more than 100 yards, and 1-8 when rushing for fewer.
''It was important for us as a team and as an offense to set the tone early by running the ball and moving the clock (against New Orleans),'' offensive lineman Michael Ola said.
''It was good for us to come out early in the game and run the ball and put them on their heels. We've been working hard on that in practice.''
And Stafford has made encouraging strides in the same span. In the past six games, he has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,580 yards, 14 scores and just two interceptions.
In the first eight games this season, Stafford completed 64.3 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
''I think some of the changes we have made have fit his strength,'' Caldwell said. ''I have to give him a lot of credit, because what he is doing is not easy. It's a complex system, and that complex system is not necessarily for everybody.
''You see more people fail in it than advance and prosper within it. He doesn't have it all yet, because it hasn't all been installed, but little by little, he has grasped it very quickly.''
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