New Stat Proves How Close Lions Were to Contending in 2019

Matthew Stafford

Getty Matthew Stafford throws before a Bears game.

Most know the Detroit Lions finished the 2019 season in dreadful 3-12-1 fashion, but they were close to having a much different fate and possibly a different year.

Recently, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell met with the media and talked about the offseason and where the team is trending in 2020. Still, that didn’t prevent him from casting an eye back to 2019. When it came to that, Bevell explained that the Lions were much, much closer to breaking through than most on the outside may have thought last season.

As he cited, the team led in 10 games in the 4th quarter last season. In those games, they were 3-7-1. Even a modest improvement in that record would have meant the Lions being a much better team in terms of the season they had.

Bevell’s takeaway? The Lions simply have to be able to focus and finish games this coming season, especially late in the final quarter. Typically, the Lions have been an excellent team late in games, earning the reputation as comeback kids during Matthew Stafford’s tenure as quarterback. The challenge now is to develop a mindset where they can better protect leads and put away games they should win.

Surely, if they are able to, the team will be much better this season and might even be one of the better comeback stories in the league.

Lions Cited Worst to First Contender in 2020

The Lions finished last season in poor fashion. Still, that hasn’t stopped many from believing in the court of public opinion. The latest person to feel this way is Adam Schein of Recently, Schein revealed a look at his top teams that could go worst to first, and Detroit was in prime position in his mind at No. 1 overall.

As for the reasoning, it was a familiar one, Schein thinks that the quarterback position in Detroit is solid, and the offense could be the key to getting the team over the top. Additionally, the schedule could set them up for a decent finish to the season.

He wrote:

“Matthew Stafford is a star, as he displayed in Darrell Bevell’s offense last year. Stafford’s 2019 campaign, of course, was limited to eight games by a back injury, but in that half-season, he stacked up some sparkling figures: 19:5 TD-to-INT ratio, 312.5 passing yards per game, 106.0 passer rating. Now it’s Year 2 in Bevell’s attack — no more learning curve! As I wrote last month, I can see the 32-year-old signal-caller leading the league in passing yards. Especially with Detroit’s receiving corps, which I love. Kenny Golladay broke out last season, snagging a league-high 11 touchdown catches and a Pro Bowl bid. Marvin Jones is a perfect No. 2, while Danny Amendola is a strong No. 3 in the slot. And I remain a big believer in tight end T.J. Hockenson. With better health and an NFL season under his belt, the 2019 first-rounder can become a stud. Meanwhile, in the 2020 NFL Draft, GM Bob Quinn stole D’Andre Swift in Round 2. I expect him to be in the mix for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Matt Patricia’s defense is beefed up, even after Darius Slay’s departure via trade. I will never believe Jeff Okudah was the third-best player in this year’s draft class, but I believe in him as a legit NFL corner. Danny Shelton, Jaimie Collins and Desmond Trufant were strong veteran pickups addressing needs on all three levels.

And check the schedule. Detroit can start 4-4. And then they play Washington and Carolina before hosting Houston on Thanksgiving. Thus, the Lions could hit December sitting pretty at 7-4.

As I alluded to above with my unenthusiastic Packers endorsement, I’m not ready to pull the trigger on Detroit winning its first NFC North title just yet. But it is very, very realistic. And you Lions fans need to start embracing it.”

Lions fans will likely never embrace their team as favorites for anything until they see them contend, but at the very least, it’s nice to see the national media is buying Detroit as a potential contender in 2020.

Peter King Predicts Great Season for Lions

Even though NBC Sports analyst Peter King doesn’t have the Lions ranked high in his power rankings at 26th, he does see potential for some large things in 2020.

As King explains, it’s a big season for many with the team and while Matthew Stafford hasn’t accomplished much at this point in his career, the Lions will have a powerful offense. What happens this season from there will be determined by the defense.

King wrote:

“But what will it mean? Detroit basically treaded water in the offseason, trading ace cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia and using the third pick in the draft on his replacement, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. He’ll play opposite new cornerback Desmond Trufant, who comes from Atlanta after a disappointing end there. Patricia’s D needs to show progress after allowing a gaudy 24.5 points a game in his first two years, not the kind of performance the Lions expected when they hired the Belichick disciple two years ago. He’ll need strong performances from a couple of former Patriots who just arrived this year—instinctive safety Duron Harmon and roving linebacker Jamie Collins. I won’t be shocked if Detroit contends, because the Lions will score. The big question is the D.”

Many think the Lions actually improved their defense this offseason, even as others see the team basically doing nothing more than treading water. Either way, King is right. If Detroit’s defense steps up and has a big year, the team could stand to benefit by doing more winning than many would expect on the field.

Conditions could be ripe for a major turnaround in Detroit, and one might only look toward the stats of how close the team was in 2019 to show that to be the case.

READ NEXT: Analyst Predicts Dreadful Lions Finish in 2020

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