The team is tied for sixth in the NFL with just eight touchdowns surrendered on defense. Only Chicago (6) and Seattle (7) had fewer as of Week 6 (the Seahawks gave up one offensive touchdown to the 49ers on Thursday Night football, Week 7).
“(It’s) unknown and underappreciated nationally,” said ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico. “The points-for column is one that you refer to all the time and look at, but you credit the defense.
“When you consider that the heartbeat of the backend of the defense hasn’t been there at all – training camp, preseason or the first four games – that says a lot.”
Tirico is referring to safety
Not only did Delmas come away with the team’s first interception of the season, he provided a fire on the field for his defensive teammates.
“I think he even fired up the guys on the defensive front, which is hard to say because they bring a lot of energy anyway,” said Tirico.
“We’ve seen safeties like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu over the years – the elite safeties in the NFL. When they’re off the field, the team doesn’t look the same defensively.
“When you see an impact like that, it opens my awareness to, ‘well, this guy’s such a difference-maker.’ If he makes the rest of his players better, that’s one of the best things you can say about a teammate.”
The Lions’ defense has managed solid performances despite inconsistency in the line-up.
Detroit has had a different combination of players start in the secondary in each of the team’s five games, which may lend itself to the fact that the Lions didn’t have an interception until last weekend at Philadelphia.
Now it’s time to take on Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, who, despite having the league’s 20th-ranked offense, are second in points per game and tied for the league lead in point-differential.
“I’m starting to see Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall get back to the Cutler and Marshall I saw in Denver,” said Tirico.
“I think they can become a really good team.”
Considering Chicago’s rushing attack of Matt Forte and Michael Bush, the key for the Lions will be stopping the run in order to pin their ears back and go after Cutler.
If the Lions can do half of what they did last week against Michael Vick and the Eagles, they will be in good shape.
“Because both teams have a great strength as a defensive line, can those defensive lines change the game with those big plays?” asked Tirico.
“The sacks, the forced fumbles, force the ball out early to make an interception. I’m anticipating a lower-scoring first half and a bigger scoring second half.”
Detroit should have opportunities to get after Cutler while facing a Bears offense that has allowed 14 sacks this season.
“Here’s what we’ve known for years: it’s a tough place to play in Chicago,” said Tirico. “It has been historically tough for the Lions to play there.
“What can you make happen early on in a game?”
Tirico says he is expecting a more consistent performance from Detroit on both sides of the ball, much like the team’s performance at San Francisco.
If the Lions can maintain that level of consistency and pull out the win on Monday night, it will certainly feel like a fresh start for Detroit.