For those who have spent the past four days complaining about the Vikings offense, cheer up. Things could be worse. A lot worse.
Speaking of Detroit, the Lions are last in the league in turnover ratio (minus-8), giveaways (18), points allowed off turnovers (59), turnover points differential (minus-41) and, of course, the NFC North standings (1-5).
“They’ve had a bunch” of turnovers, said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer before adding, “hopefully, we can continue it.”
The Lions are running away in the NFL’s giveaway battle heading into Sunday’s game against the Vikings at Ford Field. They’re six ahead of Indianapolis and on pace for 48 turnovers, which would be the most the league has seen since the 2000 Chargers had 50 turnovers while finishing 1-15.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell was asked if can remember experiencing a stretch of offensive generosity similar to what he’s had to endure this season. Even Rod Marinelli’s 2008 Lions — the only 0-16 team in NFL history — had only nine giveaways through six games.
“If I thought back … I’d maybe be able to find one or two [games] here somewhere along the line,” Caldwell said. “But never [six games]. … This is new and this is what we’re dealing with and that’s an area we certainly have to improve upon.”
The Lions have lost the turnover battle in each game this season. Even in last week’s 37-34 overtime victory over the Bears at home, they were minus-2 with three giveaways and one takeaway.
“Teams are going to look at what they’ve been hurt on and what’s been beating them,” Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo said. “If they have a lot of turnovers, obviously they’re going to be emphasizing protecting the ball. As a defense, you’re always emphasizing takeaways, so if we can get some early, it could help keep them on that roll.”
The Lions were minus-2 in turnover ratio in their 26-16 loss to the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in Week 2. But the mother of all meltdowns came in Week 5 when Arizona visited Ford Field.
The Cardinals scored 42 points while running 46 offensive plays. They started slow offensively, but it didn’t matter. They won 42-17 because the Lions turned the ball over six times without a takeaway.
Arizona had touchdown drives of 4, 22, 47 and 56 yards. Two of those came off Matthew Stafford’s four interceptions.
“It would be great to go in and get six turnovers and win in a blowout,” Sendejo said. “But you don’t see that very often in the NFL. That’s pretty rare.”
According to ESPN, the six turnovers tied for the most by one team since 2001. The Rams turned it over eight times in a loss to New Orleans in 2001, the year they led the league with 44 turnovers. Of course, the ’01 Rams also had the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense, which overcame all those setbacks while going 14-2 en route to the Super Bowl.
“It’s frustrating,” said Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who caught six passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. “In recent memory, no, I don’t [remember as many turnovers] as what’s happening right now. We’ve had quite a few and if you want to be a winning team, you see those teams have a plus in the turnover margin.”
Suddenly, Teddy Bridgewater’s four interceptions in five games don’t seem so cataclysmic. With five fewer interceptions than Stafford, Bridgewater and the Vikings are tied for the eighth-fewest interceptions, the sixth-fewest turnovers (6) and the eighth-best turnover ratio (plus-3). They’ve lost only two fumbles this year and four in 21 games under Zimmer.
Bridgewater isn’t winning any fantasy leagues with three touchdown passes, the 25th-ranked passer rating (80.4) and the fewest net yards passing per game (179.6). But things could be worse. A lot worse.
“I’m very satisfied with how we’re taking care of the football around here,” Bridgewater said. “We take a lot of pride in that.”