While Detroit Lions' offense roars, 'dismal' defense holding it back

The Detroit Lions defense ranks last in the NFL in yards per rush allowed (5.6), third down conversion percentage allowed (53%) and red zone efficiency (87%) this season. Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

DETROIT -- If nothing else, the Detroit Lions are entertaining.

According to Elias, the Lions (1-3) are the only team since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger to lead the NFL in points per game and rank last in points per game allowed through the first four weeks of a season.

Through four games, the Lions and their opponents have scored 281 combined points. That's the most for any team through four games in NFL history, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Their 48-45 shootout loss to Seattle on Sunday featured the most combined points and total yards in a game this season.

And that's been the tale of the Lions' 2022 campaign so far. On one hand, the Lions' offense is one of the best units in the league, featuring an array of weapons thriving in first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson's scheme. On the other hand, the defense has arguably been the NFL's worst, ranking last in the NFL in yards per rush (5.6), third down conversion percentage allowed (53%) and red zone efficiency (87%) after allowing a touchdown on 13 of 15 red zone drives this season. While head coach Dan Campbell knows the lack of success is affecting the players, he said he is not panicking about his defense just yet.

"Well, I know this, we lack confidence. That's very clear to see, that's one element to it," Lions coach Dan Campbell said of the defense. "We lack a lot of confidence, and so certainly to do that you have to have production in games and have success and stop your opponents, get some stops, things of that nature.

"So we're lacking some confidence in areas, and then there again we're still making errors that falls into our boat as coaches. That's on us."

Quarterback Jared Goff has been on fire this season. He has posted the league's third-most passing yards (1,126) behind Justin Herbert and Josh Allen, with 11 touchdown passes to only one interception for a total QBR of 67.1, which is eighth-best in the NFL.

Goff also helped the Lions set an NFL record to start the season by going 11 consecutive quarters with a touchdown scored. He's benefited from heightened confidence in Year 2 with the Lions organization and Johnson's creative playcalling. He also has strong offensive weapons such as tight end T.J. Hockenson, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running backs Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift, who are all making big plays.

Williams leads the league with six rushing touchdowns, which are the most by a Lions player through the first four weeks of a season in team history.

St. Brown missed last week's action due to an ankle sprain but has gotten off to a record-breaking start with six or more receptions in nine straight games dating back to last season -- the longest such streak in team history.

Offensively, the Lions have a ton of firepower, but defensively they're struggling -- everywhere.

That has to stop. And it starts with the finer points.

"It's just the little details from coaches, players, everybody. We've just got to make sure we're on the same page with everything and obviously make stops on third downs. I think third downs was critical. We didn't win a lot of third downs today. We've just got to find a way," Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye told ESPN after Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, before adding the pressure was mounting for the unit to improve.

"Hell yeah, it's pressure. It's always pressure," he added. "You should feel pressure even if we were 3-0 or 4-0. It's pressure in this league just in general to get better because teams is getting better as we speak so we've got to find a way. We've got to go back to the drawing board to find a way to get a stop.:

Lions defensive lineman Michael Brockers wants to see more emphasis and urgency placed on knowing what to do in red-zone situations and coming together to understand what's hurting the team defensively, which, he says, starts during game preparation.

"We've got to focus on getting turnovers, but that comes with want-to. You've got to get your guys that want to go out there and tackle, want to go out there and hit, want to go out there and not [put] your face on the ball, but put your eyes on the ball," Brockers told ESPN. "During the play, yeah, you know you've got to take him down, but at the same time, if another guy is coming in for the tackle and you see he's bracing and he's got the ball loose, it's just that little focus and stuff like that. It starts off in the preparation throughout the week."

The loss of safety Tracy Walker III for the season due to an Achilles last week hasn't helped things. But even with the poor defensive performances, Campbell and the players say they still have faith in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Campbell told reporters on Sunday he'll sit down with Glenn this week to examine how they can clean up their mistakes, but the last thing he said he wants to do is start pointing fingers so early in the season.

"We can't let anybody pull us apart because as dismal as it is right now, we're not as far away as it feels," Campbell said of his team improving on defense. "But until we do something about it, quit talking about it, [it] doesn't matter. We can rob ourselves and we can say we're going to be better, but until we actually do it and make a commitment. And we've got to coach better, and [the players] got to take it on their shoulders, man. They need some accountability."