I already looked at how the Detroit Lions performed on offense this season. In short, maybe they were better than you expected. Now, it is time to turn my attention to the defense. The Lions did go 4-12 this season, and somebody had to be responsible. Maybe the answer is on this side of the ball?
Of course, while the Lions had plenty of injuries on offense, they had even more on defense, particularly in the secondary. This certainly led to less than stellar individual numbers for many players. Stephen Tulloch led the team with 112 tackles, while Justin Durant also hit triple digits with 105. Cliff Avril had the most sacks with 9.5. It remains to be seen if he will get his long term contract with the Lions. He also had four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. However, all in all, I think these good but not great numbers may suppress his value a tinge.
The oft maligned Ndamukong Suh had the second most sacks with eight, which is very good for a defensive tackle. He also created the most yardage lost with his sacks, had eight tackles for loss, and two passes defensed. He also didn't take many penalties. Maybe Suh never becomes the once in a generation player it seemed he may grow into after his rookie year. He's still one of the best defensive tackles in the league. Nick Fairley also took major strides with 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles despite his injury shortened season.
DeAndre Levy led the team in tackles for loss with nine. Chris Houston led the team in passes defensed with 11. He also tied with Don Carey for the most interceptions with two. That is not very good. Drayton Florence, despite missing a lot of the season with injury, had seven passes defensed, which is noteworthy.
Now, it's time to turn my attention to Football Outsiders' numbers. They ranked 24th in total defense, 21st against the pass and 24th against the run. Interestingly, in Weighted DVOA, which places greater emphasis on later games, they still rank 24th. So maybe all those injuries didn't take as much of a toll as I may have thought. Then again, they had plenty of injuries early too, including Louis Delmas.
I will also note they ranked 30th in special teams, and also take a moment to commend Jason Hanson on another good season. Field goal kicking was the one area of special teams they were good at.
In the end, according to Football Outsiders' rankings, the Lions were the 16th best team in the league. Now, DVOA isn't a perfect stat, but it is a better measurement than the traditional stats, so it is clear that Detroit got unlucky this season. Another point to back that up: The Lions had the toughest strength of schedule in the league this year. This doesn't even take into account their injuries. Obviously, a 4-12 record is disappointing. However, let us not be too disappointed in Detroit's performance. Clearly, it was better than what the record shows. As I have said a few times, just a bit more luck next season, and one good offseason (boosted by the fifth overall pick) and the Lions will be back in playoff contention.