Detroit Lions Got Worse as They Got Better

A month or so ago, I was frustrated with a dead-end argument that the Lions were making progress. On one hand, I felt that my eyes were not deceiving me with what was clearly a more talented football team than we have seen over the past few years. On the other hand, the Lions had just two wins season-to-date and it was becoming increasingly difficult to make the case for their improvement with so few wins to show for it.

That quandary sent me straight to the numbers in search of hard facts that could speak to whether or not the Lions had made any progress. The result of that search was the post “Evaluating Detroit Lions Progress by Offensive and Defensive Rankings” that went live on this site on December 9. The post is worth revisiting in light of how the Lions’ season. I suggest re-reading what I had to say back in December and then continue on here.

On December 9 the Lions were ranked #21 in total defense and #15 in total offense yet stood at just 2-10 on the year.

The Lions then went on to win their remaining four games, with the first two coming against teams that had an awful lot to play for. How did the Lions get it done? They must have turned it up defensively, right? Perhaps the offense started to take flight.

Not really. The Lions started winning games while mostly doing what they had been doing. Four wins later and the Lions still found themselves with the 21st ranked defense while the offense had actually slipped to number 17 in the league. Huh?

The 4-0 mark at the end of the season may have been somewhat of an anomaly, but I’m inclined to believe the 2-10 start was too. The final 6-10 record seems right for a team that finished in the middle of the pack offensively and defensively.

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Tags: 2010 Season Detroit Lions

  • R Ritchie

    The rankings referenced are by definition a comparison with the other NFL teams and result from statistics gathered over the entire season. To move up or down in 4 games would seemingly require a great change in a teams performance relative to the other NFL teams.
    Besides, we all know only one statistic matters… JUST WIN, please.

    • Zac Snyder

      R Ritchie: “To move up or down in 4 games would seemingly require a great change in a teams performance relative to the other NFL teams.”

      Yes, but it would seem that a 2-10 team going on a 4-0 run suggests a great change had been made when in fact it had not (statistically speaking).

      4 games is a quarter of an NFL season, don’t discount a team’s ability to rise or fall in the statistical ranking over that time.

  • Ross Husson

    A stat that we improved in over the last four games was turnovers. In the first 12 games, we turned the ball over 24 times (2 turnovers per game). In the last 4 games, we only had 4 turnovers (1 turnover per game)and 3 of those 4 came in the Packers game.