By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Once again, the Detroit Lions turned out to be their own worst enemies. In front of what began as a raucous home crowd, Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions in the 18-16 Monday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Monday’s game seems to be the rule, not the exception, which also means snow was not to blame for last Sunday’s debacle in Philadelphia. Over the last five games, the Lions have given up the football 18 times, an average of 3.6 turnovers per game.
“You can trace some of it to inefficiency on early downs,” Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz said. “We had some times in there where we get a lot of first downs without getting to third down. When we play well, we’re moving on first and second down, where we get a lot of first downs without getting to third down. We got to a lot of third downs and kept having to drive the football.
“When you do that,” Schwartz continued, “there’s going to be things that come up.”
Recently, that has happened often. The Lions have turned the ball over 31 times – second most in the NFL. They have the most fumbles (14) and the second most interceptions (17). To make matters worse, the defense has not been able to force opposing offenses into similar mistakes. Accordingly, Detroit’s turnover differential is -13, second worst in the league.
As for Stafford himself, he is tied for the sixth most interceptions in the league with 14, has the 16th best quarterback ranking (88.0) and ranks 30th in completion percentage (58.3). Stafford said little after the game, but Schwartz gave a quick accounting of the quarterback’s mistakes and from where those stemmed.
“Some of it’s decision making,” Schwartz said. “The one throwing the ball to the middle, it was a traffic jam in there. Other ones, you’ve just got to keep on throwing. You’re a quarterback. You can’t worry about throwing interceptions on some of them.”
However, the coach recognized the interceptions kept the Lions from taking advantage of scoring opportunities. That was particularly detrimental since every turnover Monday came in the second half. The first two interceptions led to field goals for the Ravens, and the final one allowed Baltimore to run out the clock. Two of the picks came on third down; one came on first down. Two happened in Detroit territory, and another happened on the Ravens’ side of the field.
Against the Eagles on Dec. 8, the Lions gave the ball away three times – all fumbles, all deep in Philadelphia territory.
Even in the Thanksgiving Day game that Detroit won 40-10 over Green Bay, the performance included four turnovers – two fumbles and two interceptions. That game is the only win the Lions have had in their last five contests.
Considering the five turnovers against Tampa Bay and three giveaways against Pittsburgh, the fact that Detroit’s record has slipped from 6-3 to 7-7 can hardly be surprising. After each loss, the team talks about bouncing back, but recently there has been little to no bouncing to be found.
Schwartz said he has confidence the Lions will turn it around because there are plenty of other teams that have done likewise.
“The Ravens finished last year losing four of five,” Schwartz said. “There’s plenty of examples to be able to look throughout the week. I like the character of our team. I like the toughness of our team, and I like our quarterback. Our quarterback will bounce back. He’s going to play great over these next two games.”