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538 breaks down Detroit Lions’ improbable 4th-quarter collapses

An in-depth look into what’s going wrong late in games for Detroit.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

By now you’ve probably heard the fact that the Detroit Lions have held a lead in every single game this season too many times to stomach it. You’ve probably even read that Detroit has had a fourth-quarter lead in nine of their 12 games.

The fact that the Lions have been especially bad at blowing games—which explains why they’re currently 3-8-1—isn’t exactly news. But analytics website FiveThirtyEight did an in-depth dive into how bad the problem is in Detroit and what exactly at the root of these late-game collapses.

Author Ty Schalter—a Lions fan himself and former contributor to Lions Wire—first started by just marveling at Detroit’s uncanny ability to blow games. This graphic is especially telling:

That chart has layers of depression First, note how in six of the Lions’ losses, they had a win probability at least in the 60th percentile in the fourth quarter alone. Overall, the Lions had a win probability as high as 70 percent in six of nine non-wins. Then, of course, are the three games—Cardinals, Chiefs and Packers—in which the Lions had a win probability in the 80s or higher in the final quarter.

But Schalter didn’t write this just to navel-gaze at Detroit’s unbelievable ineptitude, he sought an explanation for what exactly is going wrong. His conclusion is not all that surprising to avid Lions fans.

“The Lions’ defense can’t stop anybody late,” Schalter writes.

There’s a boatload of evidence he uses to support his case, including Detroit’s horrible pass-defense splits in the second half, their insistence on dropping eight into coverage, their inability to intercept passes, and their plain physical exhaustion from too many defensive snaps.

The entire thing is definitely worth your time, though you may not want to read it after recently eating something. Side effects include nausea, fist-through-screen syndrome and extreme SOLitude.

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