Inspired by the excellent FanPost by Evilsmurf about Sack Rate, this is an examination of the production of our Defensive Line with a different metric.
Visiting the STATS, INC website, I came across a composite index that they have been using to measure the overall success of an offense's pass protection, The New York Life Protection Index. It uses a formula to generate a score based on sacks, hurries, knockdowns, OL penalties, and length of passing attempts. They rank each team week to week and determine which offenses were best at protecting the quarterback on pass plays. I decided to turn this index on its head and see where each Lions' opponent ranked. Let's take a look...
Overall Index Rank -- Team (Season Index Avg) -- Index vs Lions = Differential (Season-Vs Lions)
11th -- Bucs (67.5) -- 89 = -21.5
23rd -- Chiefs (58) -- 62.9 = -4.9
28th -- Vikings (46.4) -- 43.3 = +3.1
13th -- Cowboys (66.1) -- 109.6 = -43.5
32nd -- Bears (43.2) -- 38.1 = +5.1
27th -- 49ers (47.1) -- 41.7 = +6
6th -- Falcons (76.2) -- 61.6 = +14.6
31st -- Broncos (43.5) -- 26.6 = +16.9
32nd -- Bears (43.2) -- 45.8 = -2.6
21st -- Panthers (59.5) -- 65.7 = -6.2
9th -- Packers (70.8) -- 73.2 = -2.4
1st -- Saints (88.0) -- 83.2 = +4.8
28th -- Vikings (46.4) -- 66.9 = -20.5
12th -- Raiders (66.8) -- 81.6 = -14.8
5th -- Chargers (76.9) -- 103.4 = -26.5
9th -- Packers (70.8) -- 77.4 = -6.6
Total 2011 (60.6) -- 66.9 = -6.3
~~~Total 2010 (58.1) -- 53.5 = +4.6
Teams that beat their season average vs. Lions in Bold; Losses in Italics
The season average for Lions' opponents is 60.6. In their games against the Lions they are 66.9. By comparison, our opponents only managed 53.5 vs the Lions last year.
So on the whole, the Lions this year were below average at thwarting their opponents' pass protection schemes (and above average last year). Now, that doesn't tell the whole story. After all, the Lions blitz the least of any teams in the league. The defensive line is expected to get pressure on their own on most plays whereas teams that blitz more often would have inflated pressure numbers. The secondary was shaky last year and much better this year so I can live with that tradeoff.
With that said, the numbers paint a picture of a relatively dominant start to the season (even in games we lost) and a mediocre at best end to the season (even in games we won). After the Week 9 bye, our defensive line clearly took a step back (with the exception of the Saints game, Fairley?). I don't necessarily expect last year's numbers if we are putting a premium on dropping into coverage. If we want to make a deep playoff run though, we need our Defense to play more like it did in the first half of our season, when we went 6-2 (and the 2 games we lost weren't because of our defense).
So what's the matter? What these numbers tell me is that other teams have adapted to our defensive line schemes and our coaches haven't made the necessary adjustments to stay competitive. Another possibility is that they can't make the proper adjustments because the Wide-9 itself is unsound. There could be any number of reasons and I don't claim to know the answer.
One thing these stats make clear is that our line has been mediocre since the bye. This indicates that something is not right and adjustments need to be made. Staying the course is not going to be good enough.