The Detroit Lions have struggled in plenty of ways during the 2022 season, but defensively, the team has seemingly left the most to be desired.
No matter whether it’s with the run or the pass, the Lions have struggled a lot this year, but their problems have been most glaring in terms of the rushing end of things. That might be what’s holding them back the most at this point in time.
Recently, as the stretch run begins, ESPN took a look at some of the biggest glaring weaknesses that are holding teams back. In terms of the Lions, a familiar problem this year was leading the way in the form of run defense.
As Eric Woodyard wrote, that element of the team continues to hold the Lions back in a big way.
“With the Lions winning three straight games for the first time since 2017 and fresh off limiting Giants running back Saquon Barkley to just 22 yards off 15 carries, it’s not an ideal time to point this out. But overall, defending the run is still a weak point. Detroit is allowing 153.7 rushing yards per game (second most in the league) and 5.18 yards per rushing attempt (third most),” Woodyard wrote.
The Lions have stepped up in a lot of ways recently, but have struggled a lot in the defensive trenches. That might be the biggest reason for all their problems this season on that side of the ball.
In order to contend the rest of the way, the Lions will have to figure out how to step up and get more stops of the run. Without that, the Lions might continue to be pushed around in meaningful ways on defense and fail to find big wins.
Lions Run Defense Still Struggling
Just because the team limited Barkley a few weeks ago does not mean things got any better in the meantime. Detroit continues to struggle with the metrics, and signs don’t seem to show the team getting any better in the meantime.
Statistically, coming out of Week 12, the Lions still maintain the 30th overall rushing defense in the entire NFL. Detroit has given up 1,701 yards on the ground an an ugly 18 touchdowns, the second highest total in the league to Chicago’s 19. They also surrender on average of 154.6 yards per-game with regards to the run.
In Week 12, the Lions were gashed by the duo of Josh Allen and Devin Singletary for 164 total rushing yards. Allen scored a touchdown and was Buffalo’s leading rusher on the day. That’s been par for the course in Detroit, as the Lions have not managed to slow running quarterbacks all year.
Lions Defense Helping Team With Turnovers
While the team’s defense is bad in terms of metrics, it’s also clear that the Lions have done a nice job in a lot of ways to hang around in games thanks to their defense.
As a part of Detroit’s 3-1 record over the last four weeks, the team’s defense has been opportunistic, forcing eight total turnovers over that stretch. If there’s been a key to the team’s defensive resurgence, it’s been that. The Lions need to continue to find a way to force takeaways in key moments of the game if they want to have a chance to win some big games down the stretch and stay relevant in a jumbled playoff race.
Earlier this season, the Lions were not forcing turnovers, generating sacks or doing the kind of things that win games on defense. Even though the team’s run defense has left a lot to be desired, it’s safe to say the Lions have been winning as a direct result of an opportunistic defense that is finally causing some mistakes to be made.
The run defense is likely to remain abysmal the rest of the way, but if the Lions can continue to stay in games with some big sudden change plays, they might remain in the hunt for a while in the second half and win some more big games.