The Detroit Lions sit at 2-1-1 at the bye week. On the surface, that record is unspectacular. After all, they sit third in their division right now, and would be out of the playoffs if they started today.
But throwing in strength of schedule—they were underdogs in three games—and low offseason expectations, and the Lions are actually sitting pretty through Week 4. With all six divisional games still left on their schedule, the Lions control their own destiny. Based on their performance in September, that’s probably a good thing. But it hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops.
So here are 10 stats that have defined the Detroit Lions’ 2-1-1 start.
Matthew Stafford: 8.1 CAY
CAY is a Next Gen Stat that roughly translates to the average distance a completed pass travels before being caught. In other words, this stat tracks how deep a quarterback is typically throwing.
Matthew Stafford’s 8.1 average yards is tied for the highest in the entire league. The Detroit Lions are no longer afraid to air it out downfield under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and the results have been extremely promising. Just check out...
Matthew Stafford’s passer rating: 102.6
Stafford has never finished a season with a passer rating above 100 and his 102.6 mark is the highest passer rating Stafford has ever had over the first four games of the season. Yes, this is even higher than his unbelievable 2011 season.
That’s the score of the final 13 minutes of the fourth quarter in Detroit’s first four games. The Lions’ opponents have scored 39 points to the Lions’ 14. Yes, a lot of that is due to Week 1’s 18-point meltdown, but they were also outscored by the Chiefs and Eagles in that period. In the Eagles’ case, it nearly cost the Lions their big upset. In the Chiefs’ case, it was the reason they lost.
Detroit has held fourth quarter leads in all four games this year, but their inability to close cost them two wins and nearly a third. That being said, their win over the Chargers was because of a fourth-quarter comeback, so I’m no so sure this is a trend quite yet.
55.4 completion percentage allowed
The Lions pass defense has been stellar this year, despite facing three Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers. Their 55.4 completion percentage allowed ranks second in the NFL, and it’s no surprise the Lions rank fourth in passes defended, too (27).
Detroit’s secondary finally has players that can make plays on the ball, and it has shown. As a comparison, the Lions allowed 65.1 percent of their opponents’ passes to be completed in 2018, and they ranked 31st in passes defended with just 48.
That’s Graham Glasgow’s PFF grade through four games, ranking him third among all NFL guards. Glasgow has been especially lethal as a run blocker, earning an 87.7 grade—first in the NFL.
It’s curious that the Lions continue to rotate him in and out of the lineup for Kenny Wiggins, but Glasgow has done what he can when in the game and is looking like he’s headed for a big payday soon.
7 forced fumbles
This number may be a little inflated after Sunday’s four forced fumbles against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it’s still very clear that Detroit’s focus on punching out the ball has paid dividends early on. Last year, the Lions forced just 10 fumbles (t-24th) and recovered seven. This year, they rank tied for third in forced fumbles and their six recoveries are tied for the most.
Last year, Kerryon Johnson finished second in the league, with an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. He’s now averaging two full yards less per rush—a mind-boggling drop in one year.
Yes, part of this is due to Johnson facing the third-most eight-man boxes in the NFL, but the Lions also utilize two tight end sets more than almost anyone else in the NFL. They ask for eight man boxes, and they expect to be able to run out of those formations.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way, and a lot of the Lions’ late-game woes is due to their inability to run late in game...
That’s the Lions’ average yards per carry in the fourth quarter this season (excluding Stafford kneel downs). That ain’t going to cut it.
4.8 YPC allowed
If there was one thing Lions fans were sure of going into 2019, it’s that their run defense was going to be fine in 2019. Damon Harrison Sr. had been the missing piece to Detroit’s defense in 2018, and when he came to town the Lions’ run defense was electric.
In the final eight games of 2018, the Lions only had a single game in which they allowed over 100 yards rushing and more than 4.0 yards per carry.
In 2019, the Lions have allowed over 100 yards rushing at more than 4.0 YPC in ALL FOUR GAMES.
For a team that keeps spouting the mantra: run the ball, stop the run, the Lions have been curiously terrible at both so far.
99.6 vs. 80.3
The first number represents the combined passer rating of the Lions’ first four opposing quarterbacks. The second number is the Lions’ passer rating allowed. On average, the Lions are facing quarterbacks with a near-100 passer rating. They’re holding them nearly 20 points below that number on gameday.