What Did We Take Away From the 2012 Detroit Lions?

By Dale Casler
Andrew Weber- USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions were on the rise.  Their 2011 season ended with a record of 10-6. It was their first playoff game since Limp Bizkit was playing in the Silverdome and AOL was still a household name way back in 1999. A team riddled with failure for years had their fans removing the paper bags from their heads and proudly claiming that they were back!

And I think the Lions were back.  Their 2012, 4-12 finish in the NFC North and eventual plummet back down to the division’s bottom was somewhat of a fluke. They are a high powered offensive team that will stick around. A passing offense like Detroit’s needs a ball- hawking defense. They had that in 2011. That’s why they finished the season at 10-6. Let’s take a look at the difference in turnovers between the playoff Lions and the cellar dweller Lions we are all familiar with.

In 2012, the Lions finished at 14th in passing defense.  For a base-4-3 zone coverage team, this isn’t that bad. Teams will always get some yards against a 4-3 in the passing game.  The defense is built around a solid front four; which the Lions definitely had in 2012. The coverage only works when a team gets its share of turnovers though. I wouldn’t get too hung up being 14th in total yards in the passing game.

It’s a step in the right direction if the defensive backs could have come up with more turnovers, they could have been the team they were in 2011. To me, this is what changed from the two seasons.

Turnovers are huge. In 2011, the Lions ranked 5th in the NFL, with 21 interceptions.  In 2012, it was a different story.  The unit only came away with 11, tying them for 23rd place.  There’s what happened.  They still chucked the ball on offense at an astonishing rate.  Nothing changed there.  What changed is their turnover ratio.

In 2011, the Lions tied for 3rd in the league in turnover ratio with 34 takeaways. 21 Interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. They gave the ball away 23 times.  16 interceptions and seven fumbles. Their difference was +11. Keep that positive number in your head.

In 2012, the Lions completely flopped and were second to last in the NFC in the turnover difference. They only managed 17 takeaways, 11 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. What they did do well was give the ball away.  The Lions threw 17 interceptions and fumbled the ball away 16 times fro a total of 33.  Their difference was -16.

In 2011, they were 11 to the good and in 2012 they were 16 for the worse. That’s a 37 point swing in the wrong direction. You hear analysts bring this turnover ratio up a lot lately and it’s for good reason.  It’s the X factor. It’s the difference in most wins and losses.  If you keep that ratio positive, you win games. In 2012, that number fell hard for Detroit.

It’s the reason they went 4-12.  Their offense is one of the league’s best and the defense, as nasty as their front four can be, are nothing without a secondary and takeaways.  Look for the Lions to use this year’s draft picks on some defensive help, likely in the secondary. If they don’t fix that defensive back problem, Lions fans should keep their paper bags close by.

It’s a tough scenario to work out this offseason as well. I checked it out and I’m pretty sure their entire secondary is entering free agency.  I’ll have more on that soon.


Follow me on Twitter @dalecasler


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