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Detroit Lions Defense Hot Start Shouldn't Be A Surprise

Updated on September 24, 2014

Lions boast the NFL's No. 1 ranked defense

The most impressive defensive performance of Week 3 in the National Football League occured in the Motor City, where the Detroit Lions shut down the Green Bay Packers on their way to a 19-7 victory.

The Lions, playing with a depleted secondary due to injury, and much of the game without Stephen Tullock _ their middle linebacker and defensive play caller, who tore his knee up celebrating a sack _ they Lions still shut down Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, arguably the NFL's best quarterback.

It was a stunning performance from a unit, that many observers felt heading into the season was the team's weak link, especially when compared to the offense which features Calvin Johnson, the NFL's best receiver.

However, as the Lions prepare to face the New York Jets on Sunday they will head to the Big Apple as the NFL's No.1 defensive unit, allowing only 244 yards per game, and just 15 points per game.

How can a unit that was supposed to be so bad, play so good?

There are two reasons. Firstly, the unit was never bad as people think. Going back to last season the Detroit defense finished 16th overall, which is the middle of the pack. That is nothing to brag about until you consider the Lions turned the ball over ????? times. All those turnovers often led to opponents having short fields to operate from, and thus easy scoring opportunities..

But the evidence regarding the quality of play from the unitl is there. In 2013 the Lions of the led the NFL in third down defense least year, and were sixth overall against the run. When you can get the ball back for your offense, and stop the opposition from running the ball, the chances of winning goes up.

That is why the Lions started the season at 6-2....until they were done in by an avalanche of interceptions (19) from Matthew Stafford and fumbles on their way to a -12 turnover ratio.


As we fast forward to this year, the second reason for the improvement is really two-fold. Most people underestimate the impact of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

He is often he is judged by misleading stats (like sacks) and the fact he is a controversial player. However, stats don't come close to illustrating the disruption he causes opponents with his consistent penetration.

The coaching this unit has gotten can't be overlooked, especially considering all the injuries in the secondary. It is clear through three games the Lions are far more disciplined under new coach Jim Caldwell than they were under former coach Jim Schwartz.

Caldwell's even, business like, demeanor has made a positive impact on the Lions. They look and play like a team that is prepared and well versed. The maturity Caldwell is bringing to the Lions, and in particularly their defense, makes them a dangerous team.

For the past few years the Lions have been looked at as a team that was all flash and dash. They can put up all kinds of stats, only to let games slip away. It was a team that lacked substance

With Caldwell's steadiness and leadership, the Lions look like they may have found some substance.


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