Caldwell: Lions need to force issue on takeaways

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Glover Quin

Allen Park — It’s often said the most important stat in football is turnover differential. That’s not a foolproof statement, but look at the leaderboard at end of each season and you’ll typically find it littered with playoff qualifiers. 

Last year, the top-five teams in turnover differential were Carolina, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Arizona and New England. All five went to the postseason and only Kansas City failed to win its division. The clubs combined for a 63-17 record.

The Detroit Lions are in the middle of the pack in the turnover department this year. They’re doing an excellent job protecting the football, giving it away twice, but when it comes to takeaways, they’re dead last, with one.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the inability to manufacture turnovers has contributed to the team’s 1-2 start and it will continue to be a point of emphasis in the team’s preparation for upcoming games.

“You’ve got to force them,” Caldwell said. "They’re not going to give them to you. We do what you would imagine coaches do. It’s regardless if we were doing well or weren’t doing well in that area, we work at it. At this point in time, we’ve got to work more. We’ve got to do a little better job.”

Caldwell will never say it, but this is an area where injuries have hurt the Lions. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is a player who not only forces fumbles (four last season), but causes quarterbacks to make rushed decisions by getting pressure. Linebacker DeAndre Levy has proven to be one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL, defending 22 passes and recording eight interceptions from 2012-14.

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By not generating turnovers, it’s putting more pressure on an already-struggling defense and forcing the offense to consistently have to drive the length of the field.

Safety Glover Quin, who has had a knack for coming up with interceptions in recent years, including Detroit’s lone turnover this season, says his unit has to be better.

“We have to figure out how to get more of them,” said Quin, who had seven interceptions in 2014.  “We’ve got to have more of a take-the-ball-away mentality as opposed to I’m going to cover my guy and knock the ball down, cover my guy and tackle him if he gets it, or fit up the running back and just tackle him.

“I want to fit him up, I want to rip the ball out. I want to cover my guy, but I want to try to get a pick as opposed to a pass breakup. Some situations you’re going to have to get a pass breakup, but having that mentality I want to get the ball.”

Twitter: @justin_rogers