O'HARA: Turnovers have been the downside of Lions' high-octane offense

Posted Dec 3, 2013

The Lions showed the best and worst of their offense in last week’s 40-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers

When the Lions’ offense is operating at high speed, it’s like a dragster racing against dump trucks in how fast the Lions score points compared to most teams.

But with high speed comes high risk. When offense misfires in the form of turnovers, the results can be disastrous.

As the Lions prepare to finish the race to win the NFC North in the last four games of the season, they’ll make a concerted effort to cut down on turnovers but without taking their foot off the pedal and slowing down their high-octane attack.

The Lions showed the best and worst of their offense in last week’s 40-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

The best: 561 yards and a 37-0 scoring binge that took them from a 10-3 deficit to a 30-point victory.

The worst: two lost fumbles and an interception that helped the Packers take a 10-3 lead in the first three minutes of the second quarter.

As the Lions prepare for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia to start a crucial four-game stretch, cutting back on turnovers is a priority for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"We just have to take better care of the football," Stafford said Tuesday. "The last three weeks, we had a bunch of turnovers. We have to find a way to eliminate those.

"If we do that, I feel good about where we are offensively."

As a unit and individually, the Lions rank high in numerous offensive categories. They’ve put up big point totals in quarters, halves and games all season.

The Lions are second in total yards (424.5) and passing yards (309.3) and fourth in points scored (326) and third-down conversion percentage (45).

In individual stats, Calvin Johnson is No. 1 in receiving yards with 1,299 and tied for first with 12 TD catches. Stafford is second in passing yards with 3,825. Reggie Bush is fifth in yards from scrimmage (rushing, receiving) with 1,302.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

However, turnovers are the downside. The Lions have lost 11 fumbles, third-most in the league, and have 14 interceptions, seventh most. The 25 total giveaways are third-most. Twelve of the turnovers – almost half of the 25 for the season – have come in the last three games. The Lions have lost five fumbles, and Stafford has thrown seven interceptions.

Coach Jim Schwartz wants turnovers reduced, but he doesn’t want the offense to abandon its attacking style. That would change the offense’s personality.

"Part of that is being aggressive and pushing the ball down field," Schwartz said of the turnover rate. "We don’t just ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ and punt on fourth down all the time.

"There is some risk-reward that goes into pushing the ball down the field and doing some of the things we do.

"In some circumstances we can take care of the ball a little better. Obviously, we don’t want to have turnovers. You also can’t get to the point where you’re so worried about turnovers that you’re afraid to go make a play."

Through 12 weeks, the NFL’s 32 teams have combined to play 192 games, 384 halves and 768 quarters.

The following is where the Lions rank in a breakdown of points scored in halves and quarters:

Points in any half: Ninth with 30 (vs. Chicago, Sept. 29).  Denver is No. 1 with 38 and has four of the top five halves with 35 once and 31 twice.

Points in first half: Second with 30 and tied for ninth with 27 (vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 17). Cincinnati is first with 31. The Lions have scored 24 twice in the second half to tie for 10th.

Most points in the second quarter: Second, with 27 twice (vs. Pittsburgh and Cleveland).  Cincinnati is No. 1 with 31.

Most points in the fourth quarter: Third with 24 (vs. Dallas) and tied for fourth with 17 (vs. Cleveland). Denver is No. 1 with 31.