It was a pivotal season for the Detroit Lions, and another pivotal moment awaits in the offseason. Between re-signings and extensions, draft picks and free agency, there is no shortage of difficult questions facing the Lions.
Last week, I covered some of the biggest questions that the Lions will face this offseason. One of these questions has, surprisingly, already been answered, but there are plenty more still up in the air. Whether we get an answer to these in the coming weeks or months remains to be seen.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
What is your biggest question for the Lions this offseason?
My answer: How will the third quarter issues get fixed?
As covered in my previous article, the status of the Lions and their returning coaches was my biggest concern for the Lions, since losing Ben Johnson or Aaron Glenn would have been blows to the team. However, with both coaches poised to return for the 2024 campaign, I want to pivot to an issue that plagued them in 2023: the third quarter.
The third quarter was the axe swing that killed the Lions’ promising Super Bowl run. Leading 24-7 at halftime of the NFC Championship game, the Lions imploded in the third quarter. The San Francisco 49ers managed to drop 17 points on the Lions, most of which came from mind-numbing mistakes from the Lions offense and defense. Kindle Vildor had a potential interception bounce off his facemask and into the arms of Brandon Aiyuk to set the 49ers up near the goal line. Jahmyr Gibbs would fumble on the first snap of the ensuing drive to once again give the 49ers fantastic field position for another easy seven points.
That begs the question: what in the world is wrong with the Lions in the third quarter? The Lions’ third quarter performances were monumentally bad:
Lions had a net EPA of -78.42 in the 3rd quarter this year. Only 3 teams had a net EPA worse in a single quarter (WAS 1Q -96.0 net EPA, CAR 2Q -96.3 net EPA, DEN 3Q -107.9 net EPA)— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) January 30, 2024
Chargers 3rd quarter net EPA last year was -81.53, 2nd worst for any team and quarter https://t.co/8QzAoSTdoa
From a pure net Expected Points Added (EPA) perspective, the Lions in the third quarter were among the worst in the NFL. What makes it even worse is how good the Lions are in the remaining quarters. The Washington Commanders, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos have the excuse of not being good teams, with those first two claiming the worst records in the NFL. The Lions, meanwhile, are an elite team for three quarters of a game—what is it with the third quarter that causes such a shift?
Unlike the issue of extending Jared Goff or which prospects to draft, this is a question with no tangible answer. The obvious answer of “stop collapsing” isn’t a true answer since it does little to diagnose the actual issue. Is Dan Campbell making poor halftime adjustments, only to be bailed out by the offense and defense in the fourth quarter? Thanks to strong first half performances, are the players in a lull from the downtime at half time? Has someone tainted the orange slices in the locker room?
Whether it’s a change in the playbook or the personnel, the Lions need to address the third quarter woes in some way before next season. It seems like Detroit will maintain a majority of their core for 2024, but they cannot be hampered by the third quarter once again. How the Lions do that—and whether it works—will be up to them.
What is your biggest question for the Lions as the offseason approaches? Let us know in the comments below.