The Detroit Lions, according to their head coach, are searching for answers on defense. They’re also looking for confidence on that side of the ball.
Dan Campbell should save himself some time and call off the search.
Because when your offense scores 45 points and you still lose because you gave up 48 points to one of the NFL’s worst offenses − ok, seven points were off a pick-six − you shouldn’t be looking for anything more than the nearest mirror. It’s there, in that reflection, you will see the ugly truth staring back at you.
You are awful. And nearly hopeless.
At least this season. After the fourth game, we’ve all seen enough and can pass judgment about the Lions’ defense.
The defense entered Sunday’s 48-45 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks surrendering a league-worst 31 points. Boy, what would you give for the good, old days when the Lions used to give up just 30 points or so, eh?
The loss dropped the Lions to 1-3, each a close one. And each home game, including Sunday’s, has been buoyed by a raucous fan base that cannot reasonably be expected to keep cheering on this team with the same gusto when the Lions return to Ford Field on Oct. 30 against the Miami Dolphins.
The loss also dropped some truth on the Lions, Campbell and the fans: The defense needs serious fixing.
“Yeah, we’re going to look at everything,” Campbell said, and didn’t rule out replacing coaches or players. “We’re going to look at it all, top to bottom.”
While he’s performing his deep forensic examination, Campbell knows he doesn’t have to look too hard to judge the general vibe of the defense.
“Well, I know this,” he said, “we lack confidence. That’s very clear to see. That’s one element to it.”
It’s always hard to tell where this lack of confidence originates, though Campbell suggested it might have to do with a failure to execute in favorable situations.
“I just don’t feel our swagger,” he said. “I mean, we knew if we could get this team in second-and-long that would go a long way and then, we would – you would need to produce because it’s been an area where that team has not been as good. And boy, we didn’t make the most of it.”
The Seahawks faced second-and-10 at least once on seven drives and on all but one drive they came away with points, tallying four touchdowns and two field goals.
Sunday was a debacle and felt like a missed opportunity, especially at home, to win one of the few winnable games on the Lions’ upcoming schedule. But it’s not like this defensive performance came out of nowhere. Four games tell you plenty.
What I feel, more than anything, that four games is telling us, if not screaming at us, is the Lions simply lack talent on defense. Entering the game, Detroit had two takeaways, tied for second fewest. That’s due in part to scheme and play-calling, but it’s mostly ability and talent.
Of course Campbell has to try to fix what’s broken, and the defense is certainly broken. I doubt he can do that during the season, especially with injuries mounting on a unit lacking depth. It’s also too early in Year 2 of this rebuild, as the Lions flirt with another terrible record, to trade away resources for in-season help.
I’m very surprised by how well the offense has played under first-time coordinator Ben Johnson. It’s ahead of schedule, and even playing without two key weapons in D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown didn’t slow down production Sunday.
If you draw a comparison to the offense, the defense has wildly underperformed. But not by much in my estimation. The only major upgrade the defense got this year was No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. But he’s a rookie and needs time to grow. After all, J.J. Watt had just one sack through his first six games and finished with 5½ sacks as a rookie.
Yes, the Lions could have beaten Seattle. A few more healthy bodies would have helped greatly. But if the Lions are going to make any meaningful improvements on defense, it’s going to come after they stop searching the bare cupboards at home and Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes restock the shelves with much better talent next year.