Lions still looking to get running game going

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The infamous streak has now reached 62, and the four-year anniversary is coming up on Thursday.

It has been nearly four full seasons since Reggie Bush rushed for 117 yards against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day in 2013. That was the last time the Lions had a running back go for 100 yards or more on the ground.

Matthew Stafford continues to carry the burden of the Lions offense squarely on his shoulders, and it doesn’t appear that’s going to be a trend that ends anytime soon.

Stafford has always been a gunslinger, and no amount of running game is going to change that. But he’s never had the comfort of knowing that he could turn around, hand the ball off and everything would be alright.

“Everybody on our team is trying to do the best job they can, myself included,” Stafford said. “I think every team’s goal is to go out there and rush for 200 (yards) and throw for 200 (yards), and have a great game.”

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The Lions were able to have some success against Minnesota with 97 yards on the ground in Week 4. Ameer Abdullah carried the load with 94 of those yards, a career-high, but his high mark since that performance was a 54-yard showing two weeks later in New Orleans.

“That’s more of an attitude than any technical thing,” Abdullah said of the run game’s struggles. “It’s not always player issues. Sometimes we may not be dialing up the right thing at certain times.”

“It’s about bringing a good attitude and executing your job. I want it to be better, but I got to be better. That’s the thing I keep telling myself, just try to be better, keep going hard.”

Minnesota has the second-best rush defense in the league, allowing just 77.7 yards per game this season. They’re also coming off a game in which they held Rams star running back Todd Gurley to just 37 yards on 15 attempts.

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Abdullah isn’t expecting the same Vikings defense he saw in early October.

“They’re one of the best defenses in the league,” he said. “They’re not going to do the same thing. It’s going to be different and they’re going to bring it.”

Despite the seemingly unfavorable matchup on Thursday for a Lions team struggling to run the ball with any consistency, Jim Caldwell knows they have to continue to try and churn out yards with their running backs.

“I still believe the running game is a quarterback’s best friend,” Caldwell said. “But I do think that there are sometimes when you look at the makeup of your team you know that your quarterback can carry you too, which (Stafford’s) been able to do. But still, I’m not backing down from the point that we need to be able to run the ball where we’re respectable.”

Caldwell refused to pinpoint what exactly the problem is with the running game when asked about it on Tuesday.

“The fact of the matter is, it is what it is,” he said. “What I’m more concerned about, and I’ll repeat it over and over again, I want to win however it takes to win. And that’s what counts to me. Right now, we’re still not winning as much as I’d like to win, and we still got a ways to go. But I think our guys are headed in the right direction.”

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.