Lions by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Detroit Must Improve in 2014
The Detroit Lions in 2013 were the Detroit Lions for any fan under the age of 65. It was the same story since that last championship season: all kinds of potential doomed by key mishaps.
OK. There were more than a few seasons in the past decade that haven't even been that "good," but last year was more par for the course than any other in recent memory.
So how do the Lions avoid the same fate for the 57th straight season? By addressing the following statistics.
All individual stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription. All team stats are sourced from ESPN.go.com.
Completion Percentage: 58.5
Let's start off with something simple that shouldn't be too difficult for anyone to grasp: The Lions need to complete more passes. More specifically, Matthew Stafford needs to complete more passes.
Obviously, more conversions on passing attempts would yield more yards, which would theoretically lead to more first downs and points. There isn't a huge need to delve too deeply here.
Stafford's 58.5-percent effort last season fell well shy of the mark. He ranked 33rd out of 42 qualifying quarterbacks, falling behind such stalwarts as Kellen Clemens and EJ Manuel.
New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's time with Drew Brees should prove beneficial—Brees only once converted less than 65 percent of his passes during their time together. Lombardi should have plenty of insight to pass along after spending the last five seasons as Brees' position coach.
One easy and immediate way the Lions can improve Stafford's completion percentage is by holding onto the ball when it lands in their hands. One could even argue it is the main reason wide receivers earn their ridiculous incomes.
But I digress. Hopefully, fans can begin to repress those feelings, thanks to the front office's aggression in upgrading the talent.
Fresh addition Golden Tate has proven incredibly reliable. As fellow Bleacher Reporter Zach Kruse discovered, Tate has sustained the "highest catch rate of any receiver" since 2011. That's a good start.
However, the biggest improvement will need to come from Detroit's biggest stars.
Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush both posted one of the ten worst drop rates at their respective positions, with Bush "leading" the way for all running backs. Without improvement from those two, the offense will continue to be hamstrung and limited when it counts.
The Lions have invested heavily in their defensive line over the past four years using three first-round picks on Ndamukong Suh, Ezekiel Ansah and Nick Fairley. While Suh is the face of the defense, Fairley is more indicative of the unit.
Fairley has the potential and tools to be an elite sack master since he plays next to one of the NFL's most consistent disruptors. Yet, the big sacks seem more like the exception than the rule.
In all, Detroit's defenders produced the fifth least number of sacks (33) in the league. That's not the type of return on investment that a successful team is looking for.
With a young secondary that isn't capable of taking over a game, the unit needs to be protected as much as possible. The hurries are helpful, and the Lions racked up plenty, finishing with one more than the vaunted Carolina Panthers.
But smothering an offense and creating long third-down situations is drastically more valuable.
How much more valuable? Well, those same Panthers notched 60 sacks and things went pretty well for them.
Penalties: 6.9 Per Game
Nothing spurs a "same ole Lions" groan more than stupid penalties. It's been a staple of the franchise under the too-aggressive-and-emotional Jim Schwartz.
Detroit has all the talent necessary—and has for years—to be a consistent postseason threat. Yet, the Lions have yet to return to the playoffs since breaking through in 2011.
Penalties are a huge reason for that. Detroit came in as the 26th most penalized team in 2013, according to TeamRankings.com.
It's true that both Denver and Seattle posted worse marks, but making that leap in logic would be putting too much faith in Detroit's talent and depth. Those are teams with world-class players at key positions who don't hurt their team. Detroit doesn't have the horses to overcome such costly mistakes.
Turnover Ratio: -12
For the capping moment to this memorial of mediocrity, there were a couple thoughts that passed through my mind. Should I talk about Detroit's 22 takeaways last year? Or perhaps the 34 giveaways?
I'm not the type of guy to only have one cookie. I'm also not the type of guy to only include one stat.
More than any other number on this list, it was Detroit's ability (inability?) to shoot itself in the foot seemingly every game that doomed the season. In fact, the Lions committed three or more turnovers in half their games last year.
That's an insane number. And not one congruent with success.