The Lions didn’t just run the ball well on Thursday against the Packers. They ran better than they had since Barry Sanders was in Detroit.
According to the team’s website, the Lions’ 241 yards on the ground against the Packers represented the highest rushing output since the Lions gained 249 yards against the Colts on November 23, 1997. Of those 249 yards, 216 were gained by Sanders, who would finish that season with 2,053 yards.
Against the Packers on Thursday, the Lions spread the ball around a lot more than they did in the Barry Sanders days. Reggie Bush led the team on Thursday with 20 carries for 117 yards, Joique Bell added 19 carries for 94 yards, receiver Jeremy Ross picked up 24 yards on his one run and quarterback Matthew Stafford gained eight yards on his one run. (The Lions lost two yards at the end of the game when backup quarterback Shaun Hill took a knee twice.)
The Lions are still a pass-first team, and Calvin Johnson is the most important player in their offense. But they can win games on the ground, too. Which is one of the reasons they’re closing in on their first division title since Barry Sanders was a Lion.