Rushing attack in Detroit continues to lack explosiveness with or without RB Kerryon Johnson
DETROIT -- The rushing attack in Detroit continues to underwhelm with or without starting running back Kerryon Johnson in the backfield. The second-year running back was knocked out of Sunday's loss against Minnesota with a second-quarter knee injury as he did not return.
Lions coach Matt Patricia said the team would see what Kerryon Johnson's injury looks like on Monday, leaving it at "I'll talk to him tomorrow."
Rookie Ty Johnson and running back J.D. McKissic took over duties for an offensive backfield responsible for only one first down on the ground in the 42-30 loss to the Vikings. Ty Johnson ran the ball 10 times for 29 yards, Kerryon Johnson five times for 23 yards and McKissic had five rushes for 29 yards.Related: Darius Slay, Kerryon Johnson knocked out of Lions game with injuries
"I think we were close on a lot of them. Kerryon was a little dinged up at some point during the game and we had some guys step up and do a nice job," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said after Detroit's third-straight loss. "I think the run game was decently efficient, but in order to have what everyone wants to call a great run game you have to have some explosive ones. Those help the average, you know you are going to have twos and threes in there, but if you have a 30 (yarder) in there or a 25 or a 40 or something like that, really helps the average.
"We just didn't get that done today. It (the running game) picked up a big third-and-short with J.D. around the corner."
McKissic picked up the lone first down on the ground Stafford mentioned on a jet sweep he took 14 yards on third-and-1 during the final scoring drive of the second quarter. It was the longest run of the day for the Lions as Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson each finished with a long rush of 6 yards.
As for the rushing attack as a whole, the Lions ran the ball 20 times during Sunday's loss picking up 4.1 yards per carry for 81 yards. Detroit's offense ranked 16th in rushing yards, 24th in touchdowns and 26th in per attempt average at 3.8 yards heading into NFC North matchup.
When Detroit was faced with a fourth-and-2 at midfield trailing by five in the fourth quarter, Stafford faked the handoff and tossed an incomplete pass intended for McKissic with Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks in coverage.Related: Observations: Lions shredded by Vikings for third straight loss
"Yeah, we tried a little play-action pass to the left, they played it really well. Kind of covered number one, number two and number three," Stafford said of the short fourth-down attempt through the air. "I tried to sneak one in there to J.D. and it didn't work."
Detroit's one converted first down on the ground during the loss to Minnesota was a season-low. Only 28 of the Lions' 126 first-down conversions through six games have come when running the ball.
Ty Johnson had seen his snaps decrease in the last two games, but was thrust into action after the lead back went down in the second quarter. He praised his coaching staff for always making sure he and McKissic are on the same page and ready for snaps no matter the situation.Related: Inside the locker room: Lions struggle to stop Minnesota's run, play-action game in loss to Vikings
Both the sixth-round rookie and McKissic have been utilized in the passing game throughout the season. Ty Johnson added four catches for 28 yards while McKissic brought in two for 31 yards including a long of 22.
Ty Johnson was responsible for two first-down catches while McKissic added the aforementioned one on the ground and another through the air.
"Whenever your number's called up you got to be ready. Kerryon is doing his thing, whenever one of us goes in we just make sure we don't put a speed bump in the offense and we stay on track," Ty Johnson said in the locker room. "The line did a tremendous job moving guys, creating a new line of scrimmage. Trusting them knowing they're doing a great job and getting the job done."Related: Marvin Jones sets Lions record, joins select NFL company with another 4-TD catch day
Outside of Kerryon Johnson's 125-yard performance against Kansas City, the perceived strength heading into the season has slowed down an offense as Stafford continues to excel. The veteran quarterback completed 30 of 45 passes for 364 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He connected with Marvin Jones for four touchdowns, and his lone interception came with the Lions trailing by 12 points with less than 2 minutes left.
"Offensively, those guys are trying really hard. I think they battled through a really good defense -- certainly some plays out there they wish they could have back, too," Patricia said. "But just in general, a disappointing day for all of us. We knew on a short week we'd have to come out and try and play well, play together and do everything we could to win.
"I thought the guys worked through the course of the week, but obviously it didn't show up here today on Sunday. We just need to go back, go back to work, improve, try to get better, get everybody on the field that we can, and try to get ready to go this week, too. It doesn't stop. It's still early in the season, but we have to start getting it going."
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