Lets look back at the last 10 years and see if our Lions are on the right path. There seems to be three different 'eras' since 2002, when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl. These eras are divided, 2002-2005, 2006-2008, and 2009-2011. Although it is all football, there are some interesting trends that developed over the years. Are the Lions following these trends? Time to find out.
2002-2005 Defense wins Championships
All 4 Super Bowl winners from these years finished in the top 10 in both scoring defense and total defense. If we include 2 more Super Bowl losers and 4 more conference game losers, we get 10 out of 16 teams with a top 10 defense in both of those categories. Also all 4 SB Winners had a top 10 rush defense, plus 3 more SB losers and 5 more CG losers for 12 out of 16 teams with strong rush defense. Only 1 SB winner also finished in the top 10 in scoring and total offense(NE 2004). Only Tampa in 2002 did not have a top 10 passing or rushing attack of the 4 SB winners so they did have something there.
2006-2008 Lets try that
After Indianapolis won in 2006 with a 3rd ranked offense and a 21st ranked defense,things started to change. Top ranked and undefeated New England losing to the Giants and their top 10 ranked defense didn't slow the trend with Arizona losing the following year with a top 4 ranked offense. 5 out of the 6 Super Bowl participants had better passing attacks than rushing attacks, even Pittsburgh in 2008.
2009-2011 Offense wins Championships
5 out of 6 Super Bowl participants finished in the top 10 in both scoring offense and total offense. The same 5 of 6 had better passing attacks than rushing attacks, the other 1 in both cases was Pittsburgh in 2010. All 6 teams who lost in the conference games had top 10 defenses, but it clearly was never enough as only one of these teams had a top 10 ranked offense as well(Minnesota 2009). All 6 of these teams also ranked in the top 10 for rush defense, with 5 of these teams having a stronger run defense than pass defense. When Green Bay won in 2010 they also had a top 10 ranked defense, but New Orleans(Won 2009), New York(Won 2011), and New England(Lost 2011) all had defenses ranked no higher than 25th.
With the all the rule changes to help the offense, it has clearly had an effect. Explosive offenses are winning when it counts late in the playoffs. Strong running games paired with strong run defenses are only getting so far. Until one of these defensive teams wins a championship, I think these trends will continue. The Lions also seem to be on the same path, build a lights out offense and worry about the defense later. The only constant through the last 10 seasons was that a strong run defense can get you to at least the conference championship game. In 4 of the last 7 years Schwartz was defensive coordinator in Tennessee, they had a top 6 ranked run defense. If he gets the Lions there soon, we could be in for a lot of great years.