Analysis: Detroit needs to take 'air' out of ball

Analysis: Why the Detroit Lions insist on throwing the football around is still a mystery. It is even more of a head scratcher when you consider that when Marty Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay and San Francisco, both led the NFL in rushing during that time period.

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- Why the Detroit Lions insist on throwing the football around is still a mystery to me. It is even more of a head scratcher when you consider that when Marty Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay and San Francisco, both led the NFL in rushing that time period.

So why is Mornhinweg insistent on playing "air" ball?

My feeling is Detroit needs to take the air out of the ball and rely much more on their underrated ground attack.

Case in point, going into the Green Bay contest, Detroit made a point of saying it would try to grind it out by giving the ball to Stewart to keep the clock running, move the chains and keep Brett Favre and Co. off the field.

That's a solid game plan. Stewart was coming into the game with 100 and 80 plus yard performances back-to-back. Of course, no one felt Detroit would not throw it, but with rookie quarterback Joey Harrington struggling just a bit, it seemed that a 'run-first, throw-second' philosophy would serve Detroit well.

That isn't what happened.

Detroit quickly abandoned the ground game and several dropped passes and tipped balls resulted in Green Bay getting the ball on a short field and converting. The result: the 40-14 blowout loss.

Stewart ended the game with just 15 carries for 122 yards.

You wonder what he would have done with 30 carries. Stewart and the Lions run game in general are underrated. Stewart currently ranks 5th among NFC backs with 675 yards rushing, but only Vikings' tailback Michael Bennett (723 yards on 132 carries) has done more with less.

Maybe nothing would have changed if Detroit had rushed the ball 20-25 times. Maybe Stewart would have ended up with only a few more yards, but why not find out? No one's ever going to confuse James Stewart with Barry Sanders. But he's a tough, hard-nosed runner who gets the most out of his talent.

While Joey Harrington gets on the other end of the learning curve of playing quarterback in the NFL, Detroit would do well to rely a little more on the talent of Stewart.

Besides his duties at LionsFans.com, Mike Fowler serves as the "Lions insider" to WBBL radio in Grand Rapids and contributes to WXYT in Detroit. His articles have appeared in several metro-Detroit newspapers.


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