Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 9/4/13
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have been the perfect example of how turnover margin is the most telling statistic on who wins and losses football games. The Lions ranked third among 16 NFC teams in turnover margin at plus-11 in 2011 when they finished 10-6 and went to the playoffs. A year ago, they were 15th in the conference -- and 30th out of 32 teams in the NFL -- with a minus-16 turnover margin while winning only four games. Takeaway, they win. Giveaway, they lose. Detroit opens the regular season Sunday at home against the Minnesota Vikings. Whether the Lions win the turnover battle this year likely will determine whether theyre more like that 10-win team or the four-win team. Its definitely important, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. Whenever you can win the turnover battle, youre always going to have a great chance to win the game. In 2011, you saw where we got to go. The Lions defense went from 21 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries in 2011 to 11 interceptions and six fumble recoveries last year. Newcomer Israel Idonije played on a defense last season that was a turnover-making machine with the Chicago Bears, who led the NFL with 44 takeaways. It starts with just effort, Idonije said. Eleven guys all going to the ball with one focus and that's knocking it out, taking it away. First guy making the play, second guy take the ball out. That starts in practice. Guys flying to the ball and doing that. The game of football isn't rocket science. It's really simple. Go get the ball. It's the guy that makes the least amount of mistakes at the end of the day that usually wins. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's interception total increased by only one (16 to 17) from 2011 to 2012, but the offense lost nine more fumbles. Stafford led the team in fumbles lost last season with four followed by running back Mikel Leshoure and Calvin Johnson (three each), and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (two). Simple statement, just take care of the ball, but its all-encompassing from every position," receiver Nate Burleson said. "People think turnovers, they automatically think quarterback. But it's not just the quarterback. It's the protection up front, it's Matt dropping back, finding the right receiver, receivers running the right routes, everybody getting in position. One thing that is going to help is three healthy running backs. Having Leshoure, Joique (Bell), Reggie (Bush), is going to help us. We don't have to take too many shots, we don't have to take too many risks. You're going to have these guys come out of the backfield getting big chunks. That way we're not putting ourselves in risky positions. It was only the preseason, but there were some encouraging signs for the Lions. They finished with a plus-6 turnover margin (nine takeaways, three giveaways) while winning three of four exhibition games. Detroit had no turnovers in the first three games before committing three in the final exhibition finale when the reserves got the majority of playing time. Staffords only interception came on a deflected pass after a drop by Burleson. Otherwise, it was mostly a clean preseason for the offense while the defense made big plays that forced numerous turnovers. Its been a point of emphasis, coach Jim Schwartz said. Our offense has done a good job of protecting the football. Our defense has been opportunistic to strip the ball and make plays. Schwartz, however, doesnt want his team to become overly obsessed with the turnover issue. You don't want to get out of position, he said. You can get a little turnover happy on defense where you're not doing your job. On offense, you can also get too conservative. There's a way to never throw an interception and that's never take a chance and to never throw the ball. You need to balance both of those, but it's something that has been good to see the response that we have had after our troubles last year. EXTRA POINTS Suh, on the feeling inside the locker room entering the season: It feels good, but feelings can be hurt at any point in time. We dont want to live off feelings. We dont want to live off emotions. We want to live off our talent, work ethic and the way we approach every single week. With running back Montell Owens placed on the short-term injured list, the Lions were able to add linebacker Rocky McIntosh, who had been released three days earlier, back on the 53-man roster.
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