Look at the rankings for total defense, and the Lions are awful. They rank 29th, allowing 381.8 yards per game. But look at the standings, and the Lions are good. They're 3-1, heading into Sunday's game at Washington.
A big reason for that is takeaways. The Lions lead the NFL with 13 -- nine interceptions, tied with Dallas for most in the league, and four fumble recoveries.
While they have allowed a lot of yardage, the Lions have had a knack for making big plays at big times. In Sunday's 37-27 victory over Chicago, they intercepted two passes inside the Detroit 10 and returned another interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
Joe Barry put an emphasis on takeaways after he took over as the Lions' defensive coordinator in January.
"The first thing that leads to takeaways is playing hard and playing fast and doing things right and doing your job," Barry said. "Usually when you do those things, the takeaways, they seem to fall in. That's what we preach.
"We preach playing hard and playing fast and getting 11 hats at the ball. When you have hats at the ball, chances are, if the ball pops out or the ball's in the air, the more hats you got there, the more opportunities you have for takeaways."
There is still skepticism about the Detroit defense. The Lions' three victories have come against teams with suspect offenses -- Oakland, Minnesota and Chicago. When the Lions played a team with a traditionally good offense -- Philadelphia -- they lost. And lost badly. Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Kevin Curtis made the Lions look silly in a 56-21 game.
But the Lions say that loss was an aberration, and Barry is proud of how his players bounced back, particularly cornerback Keith Smith, who struggled against the Eagles.
"I take my hat off to Keith and all the guys that they were able to step up and respond, because that's hard," Barry said. "That's a difficult deal going through what they went through. But you've got to have a short memory. You've got to put that in the past and move on, and that's what they did."
Smith, however, will miss Sunday's tilt.
But with or without last weekend's playmaker, the Lions hope they will earn respect if they keep making big plays.
"If we can continue, man," defensive tackle Shaun Rogers said, "hopefully we can be a better defense than we're recognized for."