Ben Johnson not satisfied with one critical area of the Lions offense

SideLion Report

As good as the Detroit Lions’ offense has been through two games, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson sees a red flag in one critical area.

With 69 points through two games, the Detroit Lions offense is among the highest-scoring in the NFL so far this season. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has raised his league-wide profile in his first two games as a play caller, but the simple eye test shows there have been some missed opportunities.

No less an authority than quarterback Jared Goff has lamented missed opportunities for the Lions’ offense after both games, while acknowledging better and more consistent execution starts with him.

Johnson spoke to the media on Thursday, and pointed to one pretty critical area where the Lions’ offense is falling short.

I think it’s a huge issue,” said Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. “I would say, just when you look at the big picture of the game that first game, the way our three-and-outs came about back-to-back-to-back, that did no favors to our defense and really put us in a hole early. This last game, they were kind of staggered more around the halftime area.

Ben Johnson knows the best offenses also sustain offense

Taking away end of half drives or kneel-downs, the Lions have failed to convert a first down on nine of 23 drives this season, with seven three-and-outs. Per Football Outsiders (subscription required), that 30.4 percent three-and-out rate is the fifth-highest in the league, where lower is of course better.

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted, the Lions have scored on 11 of the 14 drives where they’ve picked up a first down.

Four straight three-and-outs after an opening scoring drive in Week 1 against the Eagles paved the way for Philadelphia to take a 21-7 lead. In Week 2, three straight three-and-outs helped take the Lions’ 22-0 halftime lead down to 22-15.

So to say the offensive lulls have been a momentum killer is an understatement. And on the flip side when they’ve gotten rolling, just by getting even one first down, they’ve been quite good.

The best NFL offenses don’t simply score points and pile up yardage. They sustain offense to put the opponent further on its heels, give their defense a rest and close out wins.

The Lions have been markedly improved converting third downs so far this season, ranking eighth in the league with a 48.1 percent success rate. Now it’s a matter of cleaning up some things. As the little things are (hopefully) honed, more consistently sustained possession of the ball will naturally follow.

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