Detroit Lions: What Went Wrong?
By Chris Morgan
Last season, the Detroit Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time in a long time. The offseason was pretty unspectacular, sure, but there was reason to be excited about their 2012 season. Another playoff run could be in the works, and maybe they’d win a game this time. Sure, some regression was also possible, but even the pessimists probably didn’t predict the outcome that unfolded for the Lions. Detroit went 4-12, a six win decrease, making them perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season.
Obviously, the positives this season were few and far between. However, to be fair, the negatives aren’t that serious either. The problem wasn’t necessarily with the roster or with their overall performance. The Lions were a very unlucky team this year. Case in point, their point differential. A minus-65 differential is not good, but by that measure they performed better than their record. While four wins tied the Lions with the third worst record in the league, they had a better point differential than nine teams.
Furthermore, aside from a bizarre loss to the Cardinals, the Lions were in pretty much every game. Ten of their losses were in one score games, and if you exclude their eight point loss to the 49ers, nine were by a touchdown or less. That means they went 3-9 in games decided by seven points or fewer. Generally speaking, this is an anomaly. Due to a variety of factors, teams usually finish around .500 in such games. Had that been the case this year, they would have been a 7-9 team. Think of these games in specifics as well. All those games where they blew a late lead. That ridiculous game against the Titans. The loss to the Vikings where they let up two special teams touchdowns. Sure, there is a part of that which is performance. However, just a bit more luck and at least a couple of those games would have gone their way.
They also suffered quite a few injuries. Think of how many players ended up on injured reserve, particularly on the defense. Louis Delmas was in and out of the lineup. Then, there’s the injuries that plagued their receiving corps, not to mention the loss of Jahvid Best for the entire season. Detroit’s end of the season loss to the Chicago Bears was indicative of their lack of luck and their injury issues. There were five fumbles in the game. The Bears recovered them all. Recovering fumbles is a 50/50 proposition that has been shown not to really be a matter of skill. Matthew Stafford threw touchdowns to Kris Durham, Brian Robiskie, and Will Heller, guys that weren’t expected to be called upon at all this season. Still, the Lions only lost by two points.
This is not to excuse all of Detroit’s issues. They have improvements they need to make to the roster. Their secondary needs work, they take too many penalties, and Stafford’s play was, at times, concerning. However, their record is not indicative of their performance. Just by being healthier and having their luck regress to the mean, the Lions will have a better record next season. Combine that with a minor roster improvement, and Detroit could be back in the postseason.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.