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The Detroit Lions’ revival (three straight victories after a 1-7 start) coincided with a change in offensive coordinators, with Jim Bob Cooter replacing Joe Lombardi after the team’s seventh game. Under Cooter’s direction, Detroit’s offense has become much more efficient and figures to test the Packers’ defense Thursday night.
For one thing, Cooter has had the benefit of a healthy Brandon Pettigrew. The veteran tight end played in only two of the Lions’ first seven games and was in on only 15% of the snaps because of injuries, but since then has been in on 58% of Detroit’s snaps.
Detroit also has made more of a commitment to the running game, which in turn has eased the pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford. Under Cooter, the Lions have been running more on first down (59% compared to 34%) and passing more on second down (76% to 68%).
The Lions also are doing a better job of protecting Stafford. Early in the season, Stafford was pressured on 39% of his passing attempts (the NFL average is 35%); in the last four games, that number has fallen to 33%.
What are the Lions doing to better protect Stafford? They more often are keeping their running backs in to pass block (31% of pass plays in the last four games, compared to 25% in the first seven).