A film breakdown of the Lions’ turnovers committed in the 2016 season
Matthew Stafford’s Improved Decision Making
One of Matthew Stafford’s biggest criticisms coming out of college was his lack of ability to read defenses and make the right decision with the ball. However, others believed this “gunslinger” attitude was a good thing. Brett Favre had it and it worked for him. He scored a lot of touchdowns, but he also threw a lot of interceptions. The high interception count is something Lions fans have been hoping would not be the case with Stafford.
Fortunately for Stafford supporters, 2016 was his best year taking care of the football. Stafford had a career low 10 interceptions in 2016, helping Detroit place in the top ten for fewest interceptions. This was largely due to Stafford’s improved decision making.
In the past, many of Stafford’s interceptions would have come from making the wrong read and trying to force the ball into coverage. But this season only five interceptions were the result of bad decision making. While getting this number as close to zero as possible is the goal, Stafford’s improvement in his ability to read defenses showed up big for Detroit last year. Their record could have been much worse than 9-7.
Impact Of The Turnover Battle
The defense was not helping this team win the turnover battle this past season, finishing in the bottom ten teams in this category. Winning the turnover battle was particularly huge for Detroit last year. They were 6-1 when they won the turnover battle and 2-5 when they did not.
With the defenses’ lack of turnovers generated there came more pressure for the offense to succeed. If the Lions were going to make the playoffs in 2016, Stafford needed to improve upon his interception totals from previous years or they were likely not going to make it. Stafford’s improved ability to maintain possession of the football was not just welcomed in 2016, it was needed.
Detroit’s low turnover count was not just a result of Stafford’s success. Detroit tied for the lead in the NFL with the fewest fumbles on the season, with only one coming from a running back. Combine this league-leading effort with Matthew Stafford’s ascending talent and you’re looking at one of the league’s top units at taking care of the football in 2016.