Scouting report: Lions' offense

Dec. 9, 2012

Following is an updated scouting report on the Lions based on interviews with NFL coaches and scouts:

The Lions keep putting up impressive numbers offensively overall, but their season is imploding because they arenít winning close games.

Their 24-20 loss to the Packers three weeks ago at Ford Field started a stretch in which theyíve lost three straight games after having the lead in the final two minutes, the first team to do that since San Diego in 2000.

The Lions followed the Packers loss with a 34-31 loss in overtime to Houston in which kicker Jason Hanson clanged a 47-yard field goal attempt off the right upright in overtime and then a 35-33 loss to Indianapolis last week in which the Colts had two touchdown drives in the gameís final four minutes, including the winning 14-yard touchdown pass on the gameís final play.

Running offense

Some scouts are mystified why the Lions donít run the ball better, because starter Mikel Leshoure (6-0, 227) is a big back with good feet but is averaging only 3.8 yards on his 157 carries.

The Lions rank No. 21 in the NFL in rushing yards per game and No. 12 in average yards per carry. Left tackle Jeff Backus returned last week from a hamstring injury sustained against the Packers, which leaves first-round pick Riley Reiff (6-6, 313) available for use in the Lionsí jumbo package. Reiff played 16 snaps in that role last week.

Passing offense

The Lionsí lead the league in passing yards (3,742) but are No. 11 in points. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has a 17-24 record as a starter, has stayed healthy for the second straight season after having injury issues his first two years but hasnít played as well as last season, when he had 41 touchdown passes and a 97.2 passer rating.

His 83.1 rating this season ranks No. 23 in the NFL, and heís making a few too many throws off his back foot or from odd delivery angles, or both, which has affected his accuracy and velocity. His 16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions isnít as good as it should be for a player with his excellent arm talent, good mobility and toughness.

A week after facing the NFLís best running back (Adrian Peterson), the Packers will face its best receiver in the equally freakish Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236). Johnsonís 1,428 receiving yards puts him on pace for 1,904 for the season, which would break Jerry Riceís NFL single-season record of 1,848.

But after Johnson, the Lions have gotten painfully thin. Second-year pro Titus Youngís diva act went too far when he purposely lined up in the wrong spot and ran wrong routes late in the game against the Packers because he was unhappy with his role, and after he was suspended the last two games for insubordination was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. The former second-round pickís days with the Lions look finished.

Then last week rookie Ryan Broyles, a second-round pick, blew out his knee. That leaves Mike Thomas (5-8, 198), recently acquired in a trade with Jacksonville, as the No. 2 receiver. The Lions are likely to play mostly a two tight end set that features Brandon Pettigrew (57 catches, 9.8-yard average) and Tony Scheffler (27 catches, 13.1-yard average). Pettigrew is running poorly because heís playing on sore knees; Scheffler has good straight-line speed and though not a precise route runner usually catches well.

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