Continuing the series of NFL Season Reviews that was begun with the Rams 2009 Review, we will now take a look at the Detroit Lions’ 2009 season. As I mentioned in the Rams post, I will try to follow, as closely as possible, the teams in order of the upcoming NFL Draft. At 2-14, that puts the Lions at number two on this list. Rarely would a 2-14 season be considered a cause for hope, but in the case of the Lions, fresh off of a winless season in 2008, I believe that this year is the exception. While still a tough year, Detroit fans got a glimpse of the future, and for a rookie on a team that still needs a lot of help on talent, Matthew Stafford wasn’t bad. He struggled at times, but he did show signs of the talent and leadership that made him the number 1 overall pick last year. His highlight came in a 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns where Stafford threw for over 400 yards and 5 TD passes. With that, let’s get into the review.
These posts follow a set formula, which is described in this paragraph. First, we will look at the team’s Offensive and Defensive values and ranks for total yards, points, passing and rushing. This will give a general feel for the team’s season. Next, we have a set of tables that compares the team’s points scored and allowed as well as their total yards, and passing and rushing yards, gained and allowed for each game. These values will be compared with the respective opponent’s corresponding averages, with the differences between the team’s value and the opponent’s average calculated. Finally, I included a sum of the differences for the entire season. This should give a good indication of how the team’s various units performed with respect to their opposition as well as which units performed better or worse. (Note: All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com)
With that background description, let’s see how the Lions performed this season. First, we’ll look at their raw numbers in terms of offensive and defensive yards and league rankings.
|Team Offense||Value||Rank||Team Defense||Value||Rank|
|Pass Yards||3168||21||Pass Yards||4249||32|
|Pass TD||16||24||Pass TD||35||32|
|Pass INTs||32||32||Pass INTs||9||30|
|Rush Yards||1616||24||Rush Yards||2025||25|
|Rush TD||9||22||Rush TD||18||26|
Both the Lions’ offense and their defense struggled, but the defense appears to be the bigger issue. While the offense ranked in the mid 20s in the NFL in most categories, the defense ranked around 30 or worse for most categories. The biggest issue with the offense was INTs, and with more experience, Lions fans can hope that Stafford can bring that number down next year.
Now that we’ve looked at the general overview, let’s look at the game by game statistical tables. Table 2 contains the Lions’ points scored and allowed in each game next to the opponents’ average defensive points allowed and average offensive points scored. It also shows the Lions’ points scored minus the opponent’s average points allowed and the Lions’ points allowed minus the opponent’s average points scored. For the Diff1 column, a positive number would be good, while for the Diff2 column, a negative number would be good.
|Lions Pts||Opp D||Opp Pts||Opp O|
|Opp||Score||Avg Pt||Diff1||Score||Avg Pt||Diff2|
|New Orleans Saints||27||21.31||5.69||45||31.88||13.13|
|Green Bay Packers||0||18.56||-18.56||26||28.81||-2.81|
|St. Louis Rams||10||27.25||-17.25||17||10.94||6.06|
|Green Bay Packers||12||18.56||-6.56||34||28.81||5.19|
|San Francisco 49ers||6||17.56||-11.56||20||20.63||-0.63|
Although Detroit lost many games, and most of them would not be considered close losses, they did not fair horribly when compared with their opponents’ average in this table. The greater differential came in the points allowed when compared with the opponents’ offensive averages. The early indication, then, is that the defense is a greater weakness than the offense. This corresponds with what we saw in Table 1 as well. Next, we’ll look at a yardage comparison, in Table 3.
|Lions Yds||Opp D||Opp Yds||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff1||Gained||Avg Yd||Diff2|
|New Orleans Saints||231||357.75||-126.75||515||403.81||111.19|
|Green Bay Packers||149||284.44||-135.44||435||379.06||55.94|
|St. Louis Rams||289||372.81||-83.81||362||279.38||82.63|
|Green Bay Packers||272||284.44||-12.44||422||379.06||42.94|
|San Francisco 49ers||289||326.38||-37.38||310||290.75||19.25|
Here we see a similar story as well. Although both sides of the ball struggled in terms of yardage, the defense allowed twice as many yards above the opponents’ offensive average than the difference between the offensive output and corresponding defensive averages. Now, let’s take a look at the yardage comparisons broken down by rushing and passing in the next two tables.
|Lions P-Yd||Opp D||Opp P-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff1||Gained||Avg Pa||Diff2|
|New Orleans Saints||198||235.56||-37.56||358||272.19||85.81|
|Green Bay Packers||71||201.13||-130.13||328||261.25||66.75|
|St. Louis Rams||162||235.25||-73.25||212||167.88||44.13|
|Green Bay Packers||199||201.13||-2.13||342||261.25||80.75|
|San Francisco 49ers||175||229.38||-54.38||226||190.75||35.25|
|Lions R-Yd||Opp D||Opp R-Yd||Opp O|
|Opp||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff1||Gained||Avg Ru||Diff2|
|New Orleans Saints||33||122.19||-89.19||157||131.63||25.38|
|Green Bay Packers||78||83.31||-5.31||107||117.81||-10.81|
|St. Louis Rams||127||137.56||-10.56||150||111.5||38.5|
|Green Bay Packers||73||83.31||-10.31||80||117.81||-37.81|
|San Francisco 49ers||114||97||17||84||100||-16|
Again, we see that the defense is worse than the offense. However, we also see that passing offense and defense was worse than rushing offense and defense. Of any category, passing defense was by far the worst for Detroit when compared with their opponents’ averages. Passing offense was second, but passing defense had a difference of nearly twice that of passing offense.
So, as with the Rams, the Lions still have many needs. As Sean Yuille notes in this post at Pride of Detroit, the Lions have needs at LG and RT. It’s possible that they go with OT with the second pick, which should help keep Stafford upright more, and hopefully, reduce the number interceptions thrown next year. On the other hand, my analysis here indicates that pass defense may be a bigger need. It is possible that the Lions take S Eric Berry. I haven’t read up on all of the pre-draft stuff yet, so I don’t know a ton about him, but I believe I’ve read that Berry is being compared to Ed Reed. That could be a very good addition to a defense with only 9 interceptions a year ago.
Either way, although the Lions only won two games and it’s still early in the Jim Schwartz era, I see signs that they are headed in the right direction.