Through four weeks of the season, the story of the Detroit Lions is their uncanny ability to force turnovers. Matt Ryan was sent packing with three interceptions to his name after going 211 passing attempts without throwing a single pick. Carson Palmer suffered the same fate, tossing three picks in the season opener. Sprinkle in three forced fumbles in Minnesota and a couple other less-notable turnovers and the Lions defense has forced 11 takeaways in just four games.
The Lions lead the league both in takeaways and turnover margin (+9), but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. That topic has already been exhausted a bit. In fact, I’m not even really going to talk much about the defense at all.
Instead, I want to talk about this little factoid dropped by ESPN in their Week 5 Power Rankings:
The Lions are tied for the league lead with 11 takeaways, which has led to 47 points off turnovers. Last season, Detroit had 14 takeaways, leading to only 28 points off turnovers.
The second half of that stat may be more shocking than the first. We all know the Lions had trouble creating turnovers last year, so it’s no surprise that Detroit has almost already met their totals from last year. The Lions are creating 2.75 turnovers per game, as opposed to 0.875 per game last year.
But the points off turnover comparison is eye-opening. The Lions, four games into their 2017 season, have already nearly doubled their total points scored off of turnovers from a year ago.
Here’s another way to look at that stat. Last year, the Lions turned each turnover into an average of 2.0 points for the Lions. This year, each turnover has resulted in an average of 4.3 points for Detroit.
You may think that number is inflated by two pick-sixes, and it is, but even after taking those two out of the equation, Detroit is still averaging 3.7 points per turnover—nearly double last year’s efficiency.
That means the Lions offense deserves a fair share of credit. They are taking the good field position awarded by turnovers and turning them into points.
Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings is a perfect example. Detroit scored 11 points off of three turnovers, and none of those points were guaranteed.
The Vikings’ first fumble gave Detroit the ball at Minnesota’s 47-yard line. The Lions swiftly drove into the red zone and threatened to score a touchdown. Although they eventually stalled, they gave Matt Prater an easy field goal to move within a single point of tying the game.
Minnesota’s next fumble is really where the offense shined. Though they were afforded outstanding field position at the Vikings’ 29-yard line, they were quickly able to punch it in from there on just three plays, while adding an extremely important two-point conversion, to boot.
So while the defense deserves every bit of credit for forcing so many turnovers, the Lions offense should be commended for taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to them.