On a number of occasions over the past eight months, we've heard Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz attribute his team's step back in 2012 to a reversal of its takeaway/giveaway ratio.
The numbers are glaring: The Lions' takeaways dropped from 34 in 2011 to 17 in 2012, while their giveaways rose from 23 to 33. Here's how Schwartz described his angst over the subject at the end of last season:
"You look at the close games we played. That's not a good recipe. We managed some injury situations with our secondary, with our defensive line, with our wide receivers and worked very hard as a group, as a team and as a coaching staff to work through some of those things. The turnovers were costly for us. Not just the turnovers on offense, but our failure to get any on defense. We didn't have the impact plays. We went from scoring seven defensive touchdowns [in 2011] to zero. We had a safety this year. It was our only defensive score. We went from a team that was near the top in points off of turnovers to having zero or having zero defensive scores.
"A lot's made of our turnovers, but our failure to get takeaways went hand-in-hand with that. There were so many games [in 2012] that were close games. Our opener with the Rams was another one we were minus-three and we barely won the game at the end. [Against the Chicago Bears] we were minus four and we were two points down and have a chance to win. Those could easily flip if we can take better care of the ball and we can get more turnovers."
So midway through the preseason, it's worth noting that the Lions are one of four NFL teams that hasn't committed a turnover. But more to Schwartz's point, their defense has created two takeaways. (It nearly had a third when New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow drilled safety Glover Quin as he tried to make an interception.)
Preseason statistics are to be taken lightly, and it's worth noting that one of the Lions' primary playmakers, safety Louis Delmas, hasn't gotten on the field yet. But as they play Thursday night against the New England Patriots and then start ramping up their efforts to begin the regular season, it's fair to remember that increasing their takeaways is among the team's top goals in 2013.