In a season filled with many defensive low points for the Detroit Lions, giving up a largely uncontested 3-yard rushing touchdown to Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold on Christmas Eve ranks near the lowest. Unfortunately, it was predictable based on how poorly the Lions defended the quarterback run all season in 2022.
Via The 33rd Team, the Lions surrendered 700 rushing yards to opposing QBs in 2022. That came on exactly 100 carries, an abysmal 7.0 YPC allowed. Only one other team, the Dolphins, allowed more than 500.
Some of the abundance of opposing QB rushing yardage is a function of the schedule. Detroit faced Chicago’s Justin Fields (1,143 rushing yards in 2022) twice and also saw Phialdelphia’s Jalen Hurts (760 rushing yards), Buffalo’s Josh Allen (788 rushing yards) and Daniel Jones of the Giants (708 rushing yards) on the 2022 docket. But they also allowed big rushing yardage to some QB not known for their running prowess:
Sam Darnold, Carolina – 19 yards (a career-high)
The inability to defend the QB run helps explain why the Lions pulled the trigger on drafting Iowa LB Jack Campbell at No. 18 overall. Detroit also added defensive back Brian Branch, who played a spy role at Alabama at times and is known for his tackling, in the second round, too.
It might also be enough to convince defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn to try using a QB spy more frequently. It’s something the coach has adamantly opposed in the past, but the results indicate a need to at least try a different approach.