ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions have 13 takeaways this season — three less than all of last season — and the defense isn’t the only unit pleased with the performance.
“It’s huge. Our whole defense has been making plays; every facet of it,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said Tuesday. “The D-line, the linebackers, the DBs — everybody is getting their hands on footballs and turning them back over to us, and as an offense, you love it.”
That’s one of the reasons the Lions have already matched last season’s win total.
The Lions have 10 interceptions in this season’s first six games, including two by linebacker DeAndre Levy in Sunday’s 31-17 win at Cleveland. Levy is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four — the most by a Lions linebacker since 1989 — and the team shares the league lead with Buffalo and Kansas City.
Add three fumble recoveries and Detroit is in the upper third of the league in total takeaways.
Coach Jim Schwartz isn’t surprised by the number of interceptions — especially with a defensive line that includes Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the guys up front,” he said. “I think a lot of good things happen when you put pressure on the quarterback, and some of those good things are turnovers. It was an area we lacked in last year, and we’ve seen some good things in the first six games.
“We still have a long way to go, but when you look at our four wins, when we win the turnover battle, it puts us in good position to win the game.”
Detroit has returned an interception and a fumble recovery for touchdowns this season and set the offense up with short fields after other takeaways. “Game-changing plays like that, chances to have great field position, is all you can ask for,” Stafford said.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis said the Lions take the field hoping for at least three more takeaways than the opposing defense. He’s glad to be part of a unit that’s done its part so far.
“It always feels good to get our hands on a ball as a defensive unit,” he said. “If we can top that total or double that total, it’s going to be a plus for us at the end of the year.”
The fast start has prompted talk of a postseason berth, but several players deflected such buzz with the old “one-game-at-a-time” mantra. Still, Mathis said Detroit expected to be in contention when it broke camp.
“That was our expectation at 0-0,” he said. “We knew we had the capability, we knew we had the talent — it’s just a matter of how we execute.”
The Lions, who played four of their first six games away from home, welcome Cincinnati on Sunday and play host to Dallas on Oct. 27 before their bye week.
NOTES: The Lions signed tight end Dorin Dickerson and released receiver Patrick Edwards on Tuesday. Dickerson caught nine passes in 11 games for Buffalo last season but was released before the end of training camp. Edwards had five catches in three games this season. ... Mathis, who did not finish the Cleveland game because of a groin injury, said he feels fine and hopes to be ready for Sunday.