What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to...drive under the influence of intoxicants? It's hard to draw a direct connection between the Detroit Lions' off-field struggles in the spring and summer of 2012, and their disastrous flop on the gridiron.
Something, though, was rotten in Detroit. A team that had improved from 0-16 in 2008, to 2-14 in 2009, to 6-10 in 2010, to 10-6 and a long-awaited playoff berth, returned 21 of 22 starters and suffered a 4-12 implosion.
Time and time again, the Lions whole failed to equal the sum of its highly paid, highly talented parts. Only Calvin Johnson delivered, as he shattered the regular-season receiving yardage record.
Matthew Stafford looked like the cocky, shell-shocked rookie he was in 2009, and his 17 interceptions against just 20 touchdowns looked like rookie numbers, too. The Lions offense scored just 23.2 points per game, ranked 17th and well behind their 29.6 point-per-game clip of 2011.
Technically, the defense allowed 24.2 points per game, but that counts a slew of punt, kickoff, interception and fumble-return touchdowns that confounded the Lions during their 1-3 start.
The Lions again spent big money to keep many of its key players around, but lost stalwart left tackle Jeff Backus and would-be Hall of Fame candidate kicker Jason Hanson to retirement (if kickers made the Hall of Fame).
They also lost right tackle Gosder Cherilus, defensive tackle Sammie Hill, and linebacker Justin Durant to free agency.
However, the Lions had 6.5 Pythagorean wins, meaning they won 2.5 fewer games than they "should" have given their scoring differential. Even if the Lions don't bounce back to playoff form, they should bounce back to a degree.