“It’s just execution,” the Lions quarterback said. “Throwing and catching, blocking, making runs, run reads, all that kind of stuff. We’ve got enough players and personnel and coaches drawing up good plays for us. We’ve just got to go out there and execute them.”
The Lions rank 27th in red-zone efficiency. They’ve scored a touchdown just 46.2% of the time they’re reached their opponents’ 20-yard line this season. Even last year, without Stafford for half the season, the Lions had a 59.5% red-zone efficiency.
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“Starts with me,” Stafford said. “I can obviously be better in those situations and we’ve just got to go out there and make some plays.
“You look at the great play Kenny (Golladay) made. We just threw a ball a ball to him nice and high on a short safety and he made a great play. It just takes that kind of stuff, that kind of execution.”
Golladay had been a missing ingredient for the Lions after sitting out the first two games with a hamstring injury. He made his debut in Sunday's win at Arizona and jumped over 5-foot-10 Budda Baker to grab Stafford’s pass from the 15-yard line to give the Lions a 17-13 lead near halftime.
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But the Lions missed several other opportunities in the red zone at Arizona. They were only 2-for-6 (33.3%) — their lowest conversion rate this season. Of course, they also won for the first time, so maybe red-zone efficiency isn't everything.
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“I think we try to take our matchups down there,” said tight end T.J. Hockenson, whose only touchdown catch came on red zone play against Chicago. “Especially last week they gave us some matchups and I think we just need to win on those.
“There’s a couple that we definitely want back, a couple of plays. I think all around on offense, whether you’re a receiver or a guy throwing the ball, I think there’s definitely those plays that we didn’t capitalize on and you need to win your route as a receiver.
But the Lions are struggling to score touchdowns, in general, with just seven touchdowns, tied for 24th. (The Seattle Seahawks lead the NFL with 15 touchdowns.)
The good news is that the Lions’ scoring is actually up this year. Although they’re only tied for 21st at 23.3 points per game, as offenses are scoring at a record pace, that’s better than last year’s 21.3-point average.
The Lions will work on their red-zone offense Friday as they prep to face the New Orleans Saints, who are tied for the second-worst red-zone defense.
“I think we just need to focus on that this week,” Hockenson said, “and make sure the guy catching the ball (and the coaching) staff can trust us to get open and then we just need to capitalize on those plays.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions need better execution in red zone, Matthew Stafford says