ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions are at the top of the NFL in turnover margin, and safety Miles Killebrew figures the defensive players can share the credit.
“Everyone doing their job,” Killebrew said Monday. “There’s enough plays to go around.”
Through four games, the Lions have forced 11 turnovers and lost only two, and that may be the biggest reason they’re off to such a promising start. Detroit beat Minnesota 14-7 on Sunday, recovering three fumbles by the Vikings in the second half.
The Lions (3-1) won on the road Sunday despite a rough game offensively. Down 7-3 at halftime, they recovered a fumble near midfield early in the third quarter, and a field goal cut the lead to one.
On the Vikings’ next play from scrimmage, Dalvin Cook fumbled, giving Detroit the ball at the Minnesota 29. That was a short enough field for the Lions to take advantage of, and a touchdown gave them the lead for good.
The Vikings’ final chance expired late in the fourth quarter, when another fumble around midfield was recovered by Detroit. The Lions had only 63 yards of offense in the second half and still won.
“You have to be able to win at a number of different ways,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Sometimes it’s maybe an offensive juggernaut and your special teams are clicking, or maybe it’s your defense and your special teams, or maybe it’s just your special teams unit has done a great job in the game.”
So far, the Lions have shown they can force turnovers in different ways. They have seven interceptions and have recovered four fumbles by their opponents.
Detroit forced four turnovers in its season-opening win over Arizona , intercepting Carson Palmer three times.
Even in their only loss, to Atlanta in Week 3 , the Lions intercepted Matt Ryan three times to keep that game close.
Killebrew says it’s a team effort, no matter which player ultimately comes up with the ball.
“Turnovers, I’ve said it before, that’s a direct result of excellent defensive line pressure,” Killebrew said.
“They’re a blast to watch. If you get extra time, just watch the defensive line. They are hungry and it’s beneficial to the whole defense.”
One concern for Detroit is that all these turnovers may be covering up some problems elsewhere. The Lions can’t assume they’ll keep giving their offense the ball in opposing territory all season.
“It’s not a given,” Caldwell said. “We certainly think our guys have worked at it, we try to point those things out, how practice obviously makes a difference, but we’ve practiced them in years past as well, and hadn’t gotten nearly as many.
“But I do think that we got guys that are closing in on the ball a lot faster, guys are in better position when balls are loose. We got a lot of guys hustling to the ball, so the law of averages tells us we’re going to have a really good chance of getting our hands on it.”
Next weekend, the Lions host Carolina (3-1), a team that is off to a fine start despite a minus-5 turnover margin that is near the bottom of the league. Detroit would like to keep that trend going.
“We love that we’re getting them because it makes a huge difference,” Caldwell said. “I mean, anytime that you’re plus-3 in the turnover margin it’s going to make a difference in terms of the scoreboard in the long run.”
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