TWENTYMAN: 5 areas to improve

We took a look at five players who’ve been impressive through the first four weeks of the season for the Detroit Lions on Thursday.

But it’s equally important to point out five areas in which the Lions need to improve coming out of the bye week for them to accomplish some of the goals they have for the 2019 season:

RED ZONE GOAL TO GO

Detroit’s offense has found themselves in 1st and goal situations seven times in four games, and they’ve scored a touchdown on just three of those opportunities (one rushing and two passing). Their 43.9 touchdown percentage in goal-to-goal situations is the third worst in the NFL behind only Jacksonville (25.0) and Miami (20.0).

Detroit’s been forced to kick a chip-shot field goal after failing to score a touchdown twice.

The real issue has been coming out of those situations with no points, which has happened twice to the Lions due to two fumbles, both in last week’s 34-30 loss to Kansas City.

Overall, Detroit’s running successful plays in the red zone just 34.4 percent of the time (ranked 30th) and their overall red zone touchdown percentage of 54 percent ranks 18th overall.

TURNOVERS

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has done a pretty good job limiting his interceptions with only two through his first four games, but he’s also fumbled three times and lost two of them – Week 1 in Arizona and the other last week inside the Kansas City 10-yard line.

Running back Kerryon Johnson lost a fumble last week at the Kansas City 1-yard line that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown.

Jamal Agnew muffed a punt in the Lions’ red zone Week 1 in Arizona that led to a late first-half field goal for the Cardinals in what was an eventual tie.

That’s six turnovers in three games for the Lions (4 fumbles, 2 INTs). Detroit’s defense has forced eight turnovers, giving the Lions a plus-two turnover differential, but the offense and special teams have to limit some of the crucial turnovers that cost them an opportunity to beat Arizona and Kansas City.

THIRD DOWN

This applies for both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Lions have converted 21 of their 55 third-down attempts. That’s good for a 38 percent conversion percentage, which ranks 20th in the NFL. Philadelphia (2-2), Dallas (3-1), Los Angeles (3-1) and Kansas City (4-0) are all over 50 percent converting on third down.

Defensively, opponents have converted 26 of 57 third-down attempts for a third-down percentage of 46 percent. That ranks 25th in the NFL. Division rivals Chicago (27 percent), Minnesota (30) and Green Bay (38) all rank in the top 12 in the league in third-down defense.

FORCING NEGATIVE PLAYS

Negative plays can be killers for offenses. Allowing them gets offenses off schedule and puts them in situations where they’re forced to be more predictable to the defense. Turnovers, sacks, tackles for loss and third-down stops are key plays for any defense.

Detroit’s forced 18 negative plays through four games, which ties with the New York Jets for 22nd most in the NFL. For comparison's sake, Carolina leads the league with 28, and Chicago has 26.

Detroit’s nine sacks rank 18th in the NFL, but five of those came Week 1 in Arizona against rookie Kyler Murray, who’s been sacked a league-high 20 times in four games.

View photos of the Detroit Lions' touchdowns from the first four weeks of the 2019 NFL season.

PASSING DEFENSE

The Lions have allowed 18 receptions of 20-plus yards through four games, which is tied with Miami and the New York Giants for the third most in the NFL behind Oakland (21) and Jacksonville (20).

Overall, Detroit has the league’s 27th ranked defense, allowing 405.5 yards per game. They’re 25th in passing defense at 280.8 yards allowed per game, but it’s worth pointing out that three of Detroit first four games have been against Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, three of the best in the business at the quarterback position.

Detroit’s been good on passes that travel at least 21 yards in the air. Opponents have just a 68.4 passer rating on those passes with one touchdown, but 18 is a pretty high number of 20-plus-yard passes allowed overall through four games.

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