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Looking at the Lions offensive line, Week 13: Rushing back to a past of Barry Sanders and 2,000-yard seasons

Riley Reiff blocking two guys

Riley Reiff blocking two guys

We can’t start by going through each player individually or talking generally about the lines performance or pointing to specific instances of dominance or mistakes.

There’s a story here and we can’t bury the lead.

Let’s start with the numbers: 241 yards. 43 attempts. 5.6 yards per attempt.

The story is the rushing. It’s the first time Detroit has eclipsed the 200-yard mark since 2004 and it’s the most rushing yards since Week 7 of the 1997 season. Back then Barry Sanders ripped off 215 by himself in a 259-yard performance against the Buccaneers that led to Sanders’ final 2,000-yard season.

Pro Football Focus gave the unit a combined +12.3 run blocking grade. Here’s the breakdown. Removing a Matt Stafford scramble and a few Shaun Hill kneel downs, the Lions rushed 40 times for 234 yards.

LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, RT LaAdrian Waddle

LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, RT LaAdrian Waddle

There were no bad performances. But some members were better than others. Look at the chart again. Specifically look in the middle. Six yards per carry. What does that mean.

It means center Dominic Raiola, right guard Rob Sims and left guard Larry Warford dominated.

Raiola spent most of his day getting out to the second level and picking off linebackers. Warford became the new Warford again, the one we saw at the beginning of the season. No other lineman exudes as much joy as he’s running out on a screen or pulling across the formation as he does. It’s almost too much at times. Sometimes he’s huffing along so happily he doesn’t see the to his side that he should block. But most of the time he gets his man, either through a traditional block or a linebacker/defensive back turtling in a rare fit of self preservation.

But it was Sims who had the career day. Early in the game he took Johnny Jolly on strolls all over the field. If not for an early holding penalty it would’ve been flawless. He dropped off later, but the pace he set was impossible to keep up with.

At the tackle position things were kind of the opposite. Left tackle Riley Reiff wasn’t spectacular early, then realized what the rest of his brethren were doing and got it together. He single-handedly blocked two guys on the goal line, which allowed Reggie Bush to foxtrot into the end zone. Check out the screen shot above.

Left tackle LaAdrian Waddle went from near the top in just about every game he started to the low man by default this week. He went about just minding his job, but since he wasn’t pushing demons into the depths of hell, he becomes the weak link. It’s rough being an NFL offensive lineman.

Chances of Rodney Austin cracking the lineup: It returns only because Austin is now on the active roster. He still has no chance of actually seeing playing time. He didn’t even dress on Thursday.

Offensive lineman Week 13 rankings: 

1. Rob Sims

2. Larry Warford

3. Dominic Raiola

4. Riley Reiff

5. LaAdrian Waddle

PREVIOUS BREAKDOWNS

Week 12: Looking at the Detroit Lions offensive line, Week 12: For the first time, pass blocking is a problem

Week 11: All hail LaAdrian Waddle

Week 10: Larry Warford is back everybody

Week 9: BYE

Week 8: The coaches trust LaAdrian Waddle

Week 7: LaAdrian Waddle gets on the field, but coaches have little trust in him

Week 6: Larry Warford was good, but was everyone else bad?

Week 5: Here comes the bad news, especially for Riley Reiff

Week 4, when the underrated becomes overrated

Week 3, where things start to fall apart

Week 2

Week 1

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