The Detroit Lions have been one of the best surprises of this 2023 NFL season. However, these last few weeks have been a struggle. Since losing to the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving 29-22, they barely escaped the inconsistent New Orleans Saints 33-28 and on Sunday lost to the worst team in the NFC North division, the Chicago Bears, 28-13.
Dan Campbell points out Detroit's major issue in Week 14
They currently sit at 9-4 but need to fight off the rest of their division who all either sit in playoff contention or just outside of it. Coach Dan Campbell was asked after the game what contributed to the Lions' loss and he encapsulated it best with a lack of discipline (h/t Colton Pouncy of The Athletic).
Given the Lions lost in every statistical category in the Bears game — they committed three costly turnovers (two interceptions from Quarterback Jared Goff and one fumble by first-round selection rookie Running-back Jahmyr Gibbs) to the Bears' zero, eight penalties to the Bears' four, and were out-gained in all forms of yardage — I couldn't agree more with Coach Campbell's assessment.
As offensively explosive as the Lions have been this season ranking near the top of most statistical categories, their Achilles heel has been their leaky defense. Currently, they rank 14th in total defense, 21st in passing defense, 5th in rushing defense, 23rd in scoring defense, 30th in Red zone defense, and 13th in third-down defense. What this shows is a very inconsistent unit that can either make or break this team. For the fifth oldest team in league history that is one of four teams that haven't ever won a Super Bowl in the modern era and hopes to win their first division title in 30 years, the defense has to vastly improve.
Lions have an intriguing schedule ahead after the loss to the Bears
All hope is not lost for the Lions to regain their earlier season momentum; however, they should not underestimate their remaining competition either.
Their next game is versus the 7-6 Denver Broncos who are 4-1 in their last 5 games despite statistically being one of the lower-ranked defensive teams but in typical Coach Sean Payton fashion, lead the league in turnovers forced. After is versus their division rivals the 7-6 Minnesota Vikings who they'll finish their season against as well but with their uncertainty at Quarterback and another injury suffered from star Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson today, they need to capitalize in both games.
All eyes will be on their second to last game versus arguably the third-best team in the NFC this season, the Dallas Cowboys, who simultaneously have one of the best offenses and defenses in the league. The game is at Dallas, will take place on primetime television for Sunday Night Football, and be the biggest remaining test for the Lions to prove if they are truly contenders or pretenders. Perhaps their odds in the outcome will be in their favor if their fans travel to Dallas to support their Lions'.
There is much this season for the Lions to celebrate given how much ineffectiveness and misfortune their team has endured in their historic history. Coach Campbell has greatly revitalized a franchise not known for much prosperity. Sustaining this level of success will be determined by their level of consistency and discipline displayed on both sides of the ball every game.