If this wacky NFL season has yielded anything, it's this: never underestimate the importance of a turnover.
Or a takeway, for that matter.
That is the mantra being delivered by coach Jim Schwartz to his team this week, as Detroit prepares for one of the league's best teams when it comes to turnover-ratio -- a statistic that now more than ever is paramount to success or failure in today's paritable league.
"They've been outstanding in taking the ball away," Schwartz said of the team's next opponent, the Washington Redskins, although noting that the bulk of Washington's takeaways came in their victory over Chicago last weekend. "They're second best in giveaways as an offense. I think they have nine and I think the leader is at eight."
"So what they've done is when you're playing close games, those make the difference."
In Detroit's Oct. 17, eight-point loss at New York, two of the team's turnovers led to two Giants' touchdowns.
Washington enters Sunday's contest with a plus-8 turnover differential, but that included six turnovers by the Bears. Still, they've also beaten Detroit's two division rivals, Chicago and Green Bay, en route to a 4-3 record.
"You look at the rest of their rankings and stats; it's not all that impressive," Schwartz said. "But they've done a really good job there. They've done a good job on third-down on defense. They've allowed some yards, but they've found a way to stop the drive, whether it's on third-down or whether it's creating the turnover."
The Lions will welcome the return of quarterback Matthew Stafford, but remain aware that although they might outgun their opponent, their still very capable of losing. The San Diego Chargers lead the league in virtually every statistical category, with just two wins to show for it.
Detroit, meanwhile, is covinced it's better than its own 1-5 mark.
Like the Redskins, Detroit has also demonstrated a tenacity for taking the football from opponents. The team has recovered eight fumbles and nabbed seven interceptions -- two shy of last year's total of nine.
"The other thing is there's a high tendency to get turnovers with sacks," Schwartz said of his defense. "We've seen a lot of forced fumbles with our defense. We haven't gotten them all, but there's been a lot of forced fumbles that we've had from sacks."
- The Lions have placed linebacker Zack Follett (concussion) on the injured/reserve list, ending his 2010 season. Follett was carted off the field in the team's loss at New York two weeks ago, but regained full motor control almost immediately. Schwartz said the team was "confident" the linebacker might return in 2011.
- Detroit claimed CB Brandon McDonald off waivers from Arizona. Drafted in 2007, McDonald has notched 27 starts in his brief career, something attractive the team's coaching staff. "We've always taken the stance that we're going to do everything we can to improve the roster, even if it's incrementally," Schwartz said. "It might be something that's on the bottom of the roster, it might be something that a player is active; it might be that the guy's a starter."
Injury Report: RB Jahvid Best (toe), S Louis Delmas (groin), WR Bryant Johnson (foot), LB DeAndre Levy (ankle), and DE Turk McBride (ankle) were all limited in Thursday's practice, but are all expected to play in Sunday's contest.