It’s not been a great statistical season for the Detroit Lions defense. Even with the impressive second-half surge reflected in the stat splits for the year, the Lions are still in the bottom 10 overall in almost every category.
So when the Lions lead the league in a positive defensive category, it grabs the attention. The Detroit defense has been consistently good all season at defending passes to running backs by the opposing offense.
In fact, no team has allowed fewer completions to running backs. Detroit has also seen the fewest pass attempts targeting running backs.
Per Sports Info Solutions data via The 33rd Team opposing offenses have thrown 60 passes targeting running backs in the Lions’ first 16 games. That’s the lowest in the league, eight fewer than the New York Giants have faced. Detroit and New York are tied in allowing 45 completions. The Lions surrendered fewer passing yards to RBs (331) and have yet to allow a receiving touchdown to an opposing running back. Detroit’s allowed completion percentage against RBs of 75 percent is better than the league average (78.8) too.
Given the major struggles in covering tight ends, the relative success at stopping throws to RBs is probably a function of the offense choosing to attack vulnerabilities elsewhere on the Lions defense than it is outstanding coverage by the LBs and safeties. That theory figures to be tested in the Week 18 finale against the Packers; RB Aaron Jones is second on the team in targets (68) and receptions (56) for Green Bay this season. Jones had two receptions for 20 yards in the first meeting.