Why the Lions’ old-school offense is the antidote to modern NFL defenses

Two weeks into the 2022 season, the Lions have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses, leading the league in points per drive (2.79) and points per game (35.5). In the age of analytics and airing it out, Detroit head coach Dan Campbell’s old-school approach and commitment to running the ball stands in contrast to much of the league — and it’s working. The Lions are making life miserable for defenses, bludgeoning them with a gap scheme run game that’s successful, in part, because it’s different from other offenses.

The popularity of the outside zone system that stems from Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay has led to more teams employing a Vic Fangio-style defense, which asks defensive linemen to play slower and take on a gap-and-a-half, rather than fly upfield and play only one gap. Theoretically, the defense can live in light boxes and invest more personnel in defending the pass as long as its front can slow down ball carriers long enough for the secondary to help. This works well against zone runs because offensive linemen move laterally, but the Lions like to run right into the teeth of defenses with authority. They want their offensive line, one of the best in the league, firing off vertically and punishing defenders.

With their smash-mouth mentality, the Lions have put up some ridiculous rushing numbers in their first two games, averaging 7.15 yards per carry. They are tied for third with seven explosive runs (rushes of 12 or more yards).

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