One of the biggest surprises from the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals was Detroit’s defense snagging three interceptions against Kyler Murray. Lately, the Lions defense has had trouble forcing turnovers, as those were their first three of the entire 2020 season.
While those interceptions were big and certainly helped the Lions win, they also highlighted a longstanding issue that’s plagued this team since Matt Patricia took over in 2018. The issue is the Lions’ inability to convert turnovers into points.
Again, the Lions won, but they should have won by more. Matthew Stafford, for example, should have walked out of that game with three or four passing touchdowns instead of the two he finished the game with. In fact, that’s exactly what he said after the game.
“Our defense played outstanding, getting three turnovers for us. Honestly we probably should have scored 40 there,” Stafford said. “They gave us some great opportunities and we weren’t able to capitalize in the red zone, which is something we need to make sure we work on, and make sure we’re better at next week”
All told, on three interceptions, the Lions were able to convert that into just 10 points. That’s not awful, but it’s certainly something we’d look back on if Matt Prater misses that game-winning field goal.
Why does this keep happening to the Lions? As I mentioned before, this is a problem that has been around since Matt Patricia’s first year with the team. Going back to 2018, the Lions have forced only 35 turnovers. That is a big enough issue on it’s own, but what’s worse is that they’ve only converted those turnovers into 87 points. Only three of those turnovers were defensive touchdowns and, get ready for this, the Lions offense has only converted the remaining turnovers into five touchdowns. Just five!
I don’t need to tell you how bad that is, but I’m going to do it anyways. Here’s some comparisons for you. Here’s what the rest of the NFC North has done in that time.
Packers: 43 turnovers for 149 points, 15 offensive touchdowns
- 34.9 TD percentage
- 3.47 points per turnover
Bears: 58 turnovers for 175 points, 13 offensive touchdowns
- 22.4 TD percentage
- 3.02 points per turnover
Vikings: 52 turnovers for 137 points, 10 offensive touchdowns
- 19.2 TD percentage
- 2.63 points per turnover
Lions: 35 turnovers for 87 points, 5 offensive touchdowns
- 14.3 TD percentage
- 2.49 points per turnover
This is the difference between winning teams and losing teams. In that time, the Lions have only won 10 games. The Packers have won 22, the Vikings 18 and the Bears 23. Those teams have won more because they’ve been able to not only force more turnovers than Detroit, but they’ve also been able to convert those turnovers into points.
So what do the Lions need to do to fix this issue? It’s real simple. You have to score points, especially when you’re a team with a defense like the Lions. Matt Patricia’s defense is currently ranked 28th in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed. They need all the help they can get. So when they get these rare turnovers, they need to score points on offense. That’s how the Lions can win games in 2020. They have to flow through the offense and it can’t just be field goals. The Lions are going to lose a lot more games if they can’t take advantage with touchdowns.
This Sunday the Lions play the New Orleans Saints. Yes, they are 1-2 and not the juggernauts we thought they would be in 2020, but this is still a top-10 scoring offense. They currently ranked eighth in points. This team will more than likely dismantle the Lions defense in this game. It's going to be on the Lions offense to play keep up. So if they should happen to get a chance to steal a possession or two, this is how they can win the game. The good news for the Lions is that the Saints have turned the ball over at least once in their last two games. Let’s see if the Lions can right this ship.