Key Lions nuggets from ESPN Stats & Info

I pointed you in the direction of ESPN.com's Detroit Lions preview earlier Monday morning, but I want to circle back on one of the sections to ensure everyone sees the work contributed by ESPN Stats & Information. In edited form, with my own comments:

  • Stafford's company: You might be surprised to know that there is one other quarterback who has experienced the same dropoff in touchdown passes that Matthew Stafford did between 2011 (41) and 2012 (20). Peyton Manning followed up his 49-touchdown performance for the Indianapolis Colts in 2004 with 28 in 2005. Stafford and Manning are the only quarterbacks in the NFL's 16-game era to have a 21-touchdown (or more) dropoff from one season to the next. In six seasons since, Manning has thrown 31, 31, 27, 33, 33 and 37 touchdown passes.

  • TD explanations: Stats & Info offered two objective contributors to Stafford's dropoff. The first was play-calling: The Lions ran the ball about 8 percent more often inside the red zone last season than they did in 2011. Another was untimely tackling. We all know that Calvin Johnson was tackled an NFL-high eight times inside the 5-yard line last season. But he wasn't he only one. In total, Lions receivers were tackled at or inside the 5-yard line 23 times!

  • Tough Johnson: The cliché on Johnson is that he is a receiver in a tight end's body. Actually, the Lions use him in the middle of the field more often than you might realize. Johnson has gained at least 1,000 receiving yards on passes thrown between the numbers in two of the past three seasons. He is the only NFL receiver to do that even once over that span.

  • Delmas impact: This one bears repeating given how much time we have spent this summer discussing the practice schedule of safety Louis Delmas. Last season, opposing quarterbacks had a QBR of 79.7 on passes thrown 15 yards downfield. In games he missed, that QBR rose to 96.6 (out of 100). The league average was 90.8.