The Detroit Lions finally snapped their 19-game losing streak on Sunday defeating the Washington Redskins.
Looking at the game’s final stats, it’s easy to see why the Lions were the victorious team. The stats also tell another story, one of an improving squad with a youthful core that is learning to play the game the right way.
Completing a game with no turnovers was a feat accomplished only three times during the 19-game skid.
Protecting the ball is something Lions’ coaches have been preaching for years but it’s been present in theory only, not practice. In the midst of the losing streak, there were eight games were the Lions had at least three turnovers – obviously a huge contributor to the set of consecutive losses.
MATTHEW STAFFORD - 21 of 36, 241 Yards, 1 Touchdown
No, these aren’t numbers you’d be happy to see out of Drew Brees or Peyton Manning but they are signs of a young quarterback starting to figure out the NFL. John Elway threw two interceptions and only 18 completions in his third start. Peyton Manning threw two picks himself, with no touchdowns and completed only 44 percent of his passes during his third contest. Terry Bradshaw didn’t look any better in his third game, throwing three interceptions, no touchdowns and completing only 13 of 26 passes.
Stafford is far from being held in the same regard as the above mentioned signal callers but his steady progress thus far is certainly a cause for optimism.
RUSHING YARDS (LIONS 154, REDSKINS 65)
One of the numbers coaches will love is the running yard differential between the two teams. Detroit out rushed Washington by 89 yards.
Successfully running the ball while stopping the run is one of the most basic and fundamental formulas to success in the NFL and it’s a tried and true method that has not only won games but won Super Bowls.
Last season the Lions were often shredded by the opposition on the ground and could barely muster a running attack themselves, last week’s performance is another encouraging sign.
TIME OF POSSESSION: 36:48
One of the products of winning the battle on the ground is controlling the clock, something the Lions did effectively on Sunday. The Lions’ final time of possession was 36:48, allowing them to keep the Redskins’ offense off the field as well as giving their defense the chance to rest.
Teams that are able to win the time of possession battle give themselves a chance to win every week. This is an area the Lions will need to develop consistency in if they want to keep adding to their win total.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE
Last, but certainly not least, is the third-down efficiency rating of the Redskins. The Lions’ defense held their opponent to only two successful third-down conversions on 10 attempts.
Good defenses will consistently take advantage of any opportunity to get their opposition’s offense off the field and that’s something the Lions did on Sunday but haven’t done much of in the past.
There are many simple formulas to winning: Protecting the ball, running effectively, stopping the run, controlling the clock and stopping your opponent on third down. These were all elements of the Lions’ victory on Sunday and should be a lesson to this team as they grow. Now that the team has seen what it takes to win, they can learn how to develop consistency in those areas – and possibly put more than one win on the board in the next 22 months.