A defensive turnaround creates hope
The San Francisco 49ers gave up the second-fewest yards per game in the NFL this season and were fourth in points per game against. They also were incredible in the playoffs as they hammered the Vikings and Packers on their way to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City was 17th in yards given up per game but did rank a respectable seventh in points scored against. They also sported every team they played in the playoffs a 10 point lead before they stiffened and Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs back to victory.
So while the numbers did paint both defenses as being a little closer than perception had us believe, San Francisco did seem to have a definite edge on the defensive side of the ball.
But the Chiefs did the 49ers one better, by proving how important it was to be the better defensive team on a given Sunday. In this case, that Sunday was the Super Bowl.
The main point, however, is that while defense does win championships, being good on defense is enough to give teams the opportunity to win games. Improving as the season goes on is important as the Chiefs proved and playing your best defense in the fourth quarter of the biggest game of the season certainly can help bring home a title.
Sure the offense making key plays and getting into the endzone instead of settling for field goals is important as well, but in the end, it always comes back to defense. Even in a league like the NFL where the rules are skewed vastly in favor of the offenses.
Sure Patrick Mahomes is a rising star and Andy Reid is one of the premier offensive minds in the NFL, but without their defense clamping down when they had to in the postseason giving the offense the chance to make those comebacks happen, the Chiefs wouldn’t be champions today.
Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia have much work to do this offseason to improve their defense and there are no magical answers. It’s very easy to say ‘get a dominant edge-rusher’, but the reality of acquiring one is much more difficult.
The same can be said for play-makers at linebacker and in the secondary. However, if Quinn and Patricia can find the right pieces to improve this defense, then the possibility of a bounce-back year becomes much more realistic.
If Matthew Stafford is healthy and the offense is able to make more natural progression running Darrell Bevell’s system, then even an average defense will give the Lions a chance to win more consistently. But if the defense can just gather some steam and keep improving as the year goes on, then maybe, just maybe, there may actually be a postseason in the Lions future. Maybe.