Lions riding wave of momentum with turnover production
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have played in the rain the last two weeks, and for the team's defense, it's been pouring turnovers.
After forcing just seven the first eight games this season, the Lions have generated five takeaways in the inclement conditions the past two weeks. Those turnovers have been critical in keeping the matchups close and giving the team a shot to earn its first victory, although they've fallen just short in both contests, tying Pittsburgh before dropping a 13-10 decision in Cleveland.
"Obviously, we're executing a little bit better," safety Tracy Walker said. "That definitely plays a huge role in it. And like you said, they come in bunches. Turnovers come in bunches and when you start causing the ball to go our way, man, it just happens and now we've got five. The main thing is, we're just trying to continue to build, continue to produce what we can and stay dialed in."
Lions coach Dan Campbell, who had an 11-year playing career before transitioning into coaching, subscribes to the idea that momentum plays a significant role in turnover production.
"Every team I've been on, player or coach, all of sudden, when you start getting a couple and they start smelling it, it just starts happens and they start feeding off of it and they really believe they can cause one and you get balls out," Campbell said. "That's kinda what's happened here and it's giving us a chance is what it's doing.
"...Look, you're always talking about them, you're always preaching them, you're always working (on them)," Campbell said. "We work turnover drills. We've been doing them all year. But sometimes it just takes, you gotta get a little momentum. Then all of a sudden you get one and guys start feeling it, smelling it. Next thing you know, one guy sees his teammate doing it, he starts doing it and the next one starts doing it and it does, it becomes contagious."
Cornerback Amani Oruwariye has been responsible for five of Detroit's takeaways. He's pacing the team with four interceptions, while also recovering a fumble.
Even with the recent burst, the Lions still lag well behind the league leaders. The Indianapolis Colts currently top the NFL with 25 takeaways.
Walker hangs tough
It's been nearly two years since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging a Georgia neighborhood.
Growing up together in Brunswick, Georgia, Walker and Arbery were related, second cousins, and grew up close friends, living across the street from one another and playing on the same high school football.
Walker honored Arbery last season by writing his late friend's initials on his cleats before each game. This year, he's been following the trial of his friend's accused murderers closely, but admitted he's been emotionally calloused by the case.
"I was always taught this, even when you're feeling down, nobody really cares," Walker said. "At the end of the day, if I'm having a bad day, I still gotta do my job and come in here and be the best person I can possibly be. I gotta be the best teammate, the best leader.
"My toughness is through the roof," Walker continued. "Last year, maybe around this time, it would have been a little bit different. Now I've got a little bit of experience, a little time to absorb it and get a better understanding of it, at the end of the day, I've got to control what I can control. That's what it boils down to."
The Arbery case gained national attention after video of the killing was released months after his death. He had been confronted by two armed men while jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood. The men, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael, allegedly believed Arbery was a suspected burglar and were attempting to make a citizen's arrest. An ensuing altercation resulted in Arbery being fatally shot.
It took the pressure created by the video to lead to the rest of the McMichaels, as well as William "Roddie" Bryan, who filmed the altercation. All three are currently on trial, with both the defense and prosecution presenting closing arguments this week.
Walker said he doesn't have an expectation on how the jury will decide, but he has a hope.
"I honestly pray these people get locked up," Walker said.