If one was struggling to locate a list of top running backs in the NFL they would only need to review the Detroit Lions
“They set us up this year, man. They did us dirty,” joked Lions linebacker Justin Durant
. “We have a great back every week.”
Although his comments are halfhearted, there is truth to the fact that the Lions play a top-level running back almost every week.
The team is embracing the challenge
“It’s a challenge. Every week, it’s somebody who’s brining something different to the table, who has been in the top tier in this league,” said Durant. “It’s a challenge that we look forward to every week. One of our goals every week is to stop the run.”
If the Lions goal has been to stop the run on defense, they should feel pretty good about what they’ve done so far.
Despite the slew of talented runners they’ve faced they currently sit as No. 12 in the league allowing only 96.4 yards per game on the ground with the eighth lowest yards-per-attempt average against at 3.7.
A closer look provides even more insight.
Of the aforementioned runners - Jackson, Gore, Johnson, Peterson and McCoy - none have registered a 20-yard run against the Lions. In fact, that group has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry against Detroit.
Eliminating the game-changing breakout runs is the key to the success.
“I think that’s probably the big thing (stopping the big run),” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “We’ve had a few weeks where the long run has been 10 yards, 11 yards and stuff like that, which means that our secondary has tackled pretty good. We’ve also offset it with some tackles for losses. We had a lot of tackles for losses in this last game (against the Philadelphia Eagles
). Stopping the run is always important to us... for the most part, we haven’t allowed any big chunks in the running game and that goes a long way.”
Of course, when playing a scheduled littered with supreme backfield talent, there is no time to admire your work.
“It feels good for about 12 hours, maybe 24 hours, and then you look and see you have another one coming in,” said Durant. “You have to put it in the past and regroup and see what you got to do this week to try to do the same thing again. You can’t just bask in it and be all happy and think that you’ve made it. You just have to put in the work and remember what you did last week, how focused you were. Everything that you did to try and limit him, you have to try and do it again.”
With Forte on tap, a player the Lions are familiar with, this week will be no different.
“He’s made big plays against us,” said Schwartz of Forte. “He’s a good running back. He’s a guy that can be a lot like LeSean McCoy. He can run inside but he’s a very good perimeter threat, he’s a screen threat and we’re going to have to bring our very best to get him stopped.”
The Lions (2-3) will battle the division leading Bears (4-1) on Monday night.