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Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions film preview: The battle on third down

The Lions struggle to convert on third-down while the Rams struggle to keep teams from converting. To stop an upset, the Rams need to make their third-down stops.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions aren’t stupid. Well, the players aren’t anyway.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knows the deal.

“...we have to execute better,” Stafford said Thursday. “That’s what it boils down to.”

The Detroit offense not only struggles to put up points (21.6 points-per-game), they also struggle to convert on third-down (37.6 percent). It’s obvious that execution needs to be as close to perfect as possible if you want to keep up with the Los Angeles Rams.

Trap game or not, the defense needs to make it’s third-down stops, which is easier said than done. The Rams allow 41.6 percent of third-downs to be converted, which is 9th-highest in the league. The fourth-down conversion allowance is even worse (63.6 percent). Don’t think the Lions won’t take advantage of that should they need points or don’t want to settle for a red-zone field goal.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Rams failed to get a stop on 9-of-14 third-down situations. They were 50 percent against the Seattle Seahawks. The Lions are capable of beating good teams (New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers). So, it’s imperative the Rams defense make their third-down stops.

On third-and-two, the Chiefs decide to throw the ball and Mahomes finds Tyreek Hill on the slant for a big gain. Fortunately for LA, they won’t be facing as dynamic or talented an offense in Detroit. To make it even more beneficial, Detroit’s offense is down to bare bones with several players being out with injury or not even on the team (Golden Tate traded away).

This is the kind of play that’s similar to some of the short-yardage throws the Detroit offenses uses. More often then not, the Lions will throw in the flat. What will make the difference against Detroit is making the tackle.

Here’s where the Rams’ defense came up big with a much-needed stop. On third-and-short near the goalline, Cory Littleton holds his ground and doesn’t bite on Mahomes before the pitch. Look at the way he keeps his hips towards the play and shuffles along with it.

The Lions were an abysmal 5-of-14 on third-down against the Chicago Bears last week. The Lions struggled to convert on even the short-yard situations because running the ball proved to be an ineffective options. Detroit converted just once on their first four third-down situations and threw on all four situations.

LaGarrett Blount couldn’t run anywhere because his blocking was non-existent. He carried the ball three times for four yards in the first quarter. On the above play, the Lions are deep in the red-zone and need a yard to keep the drive alive. Blount can’t event get a decent push out of his line and the Lions had to convert on fourth-and-one passing play.

Blount finished with 88 rushing yards.

This is the epitome of the Detroit Lions — just a bunch of guys doing their job poorly while their best player (Matthew Stafford) is left to fend for himself.

In the week prior, the Lions took advantage of a struggling Carolina team (now 0-3 in the last three weeks). On the first drive of the game, the Lions took it to the house, facing one third-down situation.

By the time Stafford sets his feet, it looks like he has no option. But he throws a sideline pass to Ken Golladay, who makes an amazing catch for the first down.

The Lions went 0-for-7 on third-down following their their score. Nearly all of their situations needed yards of seven or more.