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John Niyo and Justin Rogers talk about the Lions-Bengals game in Cincinnati on Sunday. Detroit News

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Allen Park — Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is on pace to be sacked more this season than any in his career, but it could be far worse.

Stafford has been dropped behind the line 43 times in 2017, two short of his career-high sack total. That’s obviously rough, but his mobility within the pocket has helped him to avoid plenty more. According to Football Outsiders, Stafford has avoided 20 sacks by making tacklers miss in the backfield, more than any quarterback this season.

“He’s good at that, he’s sort of natural at that,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said.

Protection has been an issue for the Lions all season, which can partially be attributed to the slew of injuries the team has dealt with up front.

2017 DETROIT LIONS SCHEDULE

Left tackle Taylor Decker missed the first eight games of the year after shoulder surgery, while center Travis Swanson, guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner each have missed multiple games due to injury.

With Swanson still in concussion protocol and Lang nursing an injured foot, it’s possible the Lions will start their 10th different offensive line combination this Sunday against the Bengals. Despite that fact, Cooter is quick to shoulder the blame for Stafford’s protection problems.

“It’s a big picture, something that I’m not real happy about,” Cooter said. “We have to protect the quarterback better. It starts with me. Could be play calling, could be scheme, could be game plan for the week. But at the end of the day, we do not want our quarterback hit as much as we have been so far this year and that’s a major point of emphasis for us moving forward.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Justin_Rogers

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