Yesterday, I looked at how the Lions have performed through the first 12 games of their season on offense. Now, I shall turn my attention to defense.
For starters, I shall look at Detroit's two leading tacklers, who are both having very good seasons. Those guys are Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy. Tulloch, in addition to a team leading 97 tackles, has three sacks, two passes defensed, and an interception. Levy, meanwhile, has been making an impact in pass defense. He has 95 tackles, as well as 13 passes defensed, which leads the team, as well as a team leading six interceptions, one of which he turned into a touchdown. Also, both guys are tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with seven. In this modern NFL, you can get by with just two good linebackers, and these are two linebackers that have impressed.
Despite missing some time with injury, Ziggy Ansah leads the team with seven sacks. That's pretty much all he provides right now, but it is a good starting point for a raw rookie. Ndamukong Suh has 5.5, which, as per usual, is good for a defensive tackle, and he has six tackles for loss and three passes defensed. A few other guys have a couple sacks as well. In the secondary, Louis Delmas and Glover Quin both have two interceptions, while Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis have one between them, but have defensed many a pass. A handful of guys have two forced fumbles, but nobody has more than that.
OK, numbers time. Traditionally, the Lions are 26th against the pass and third against the run. At Football Outsiders, the Lions are 15th in total defense, 22nd against the pass, and second against the run. So, when you look at the advanced stats, the Lions look a bit better on defense, but not by a ton. Clearly, Detroit is great against the run. Good thing the NFL is so run heavy these days. In truth, it would be good if the Lions could improve their pass defense. I think their pass rush can help in that regard. Overall, when you look at Detroit's offensive and defense rating, they are a middle of the road team, which seems about right.
As for special teams, Football Outsiders has the Lions ranked 26th. This is an improvement from where they were before, but that is mostly regression to the mean I reckon. Last time I looked, the Lions were 32nd in Football Outsiders' "Hidden" rating, which tells you how lucky a team has been. Now, they are 27th. Sam Martin has been mostly good. David Akers has missed some kicks, which is concerning considering he doesn't even handle kickoffs. At least Jeremy Ross has been a pleasant surprise.
All the Lions need to do is keep up their league average play and they should make the playoffs. If the bounces go their way. Or at least don't go against them.