ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions set an NFL record this season. It’s just not the type of mark the franchise would want to earn.
The Lions allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.7 percent of passes against them this season.
Opposing teams would often attempt short passes close to the line of scrimmage to help set up longer throws. That made quarterbacks -- from good ones such as Aaron Rodgers to starters who eventually lost their jobs such as Case Keenum -- look accurate and strong every week. While some of this can be explained by Detroit’s defensive strategy -- the Lions prefer to let opponents stay in front of them instead of gambling to possibly make big plays or give up long gains -- the number is still insanely high.
“The big thing is we’re not letting the ball get over our head,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said recently. “We’re keeping it in front. We’re tackling it. I know the completion percentages sometimes are high, but that’s OK. I don’t care.
“As long as that ball doesn’t go over our head and as long as we don’t give up any cheap plays, I’m all right.”
It broke a record established by another team coached by Jim Caldwell -- the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. They allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 71.2 percent of passes against them.
The Lions were a full percentage point worse.
Now, the Lions have to face one of the game’s more accurate quarterbacks in the playoffs in Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Wilson has completed at least 63 percent of his passes in every season of his career, including 64.7 percent this season.
In his career, he’s a 64.7 percent passer -- tied for No. 12 in the NFL since his rookie season in 2012, ahead of Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Matthew Stafford. His passer rating over that timeframe (99.6) is fifth, behind Dak Prescott, Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
He’s had some completion issues in the playoffs -- under 60 percent total in both 2014 and 2015 -- but Wilson is able to make smart reads and big gains with his arm and his legs. It's made him a dangerous quarterback who could be a big problem for a Detroit defense that makes ordinary quarterbacks look extraordinary.
Unlike many other quarterbacks Detroit has faced, the rushing potential for Wilson is something that makes him even more dangerous.
“You just have to get them down enough times,” Caldwell said. “We just didn’t get him down enough times. You’re not going to completely stop Russell Wilson. No one has at this point throughout his career.
“So you’ve just got to get him down enough times to be able to stall the drives and be able to answer with points. That’s the real key.”
And the last time the Lions faced Wilson, he was insanely accurate against Detroit. He completed 20 of 26 passes (76.9 percent) against the Lions last season in a nationally televised Monday night game in Week 4. He also took more shots downfield in that game than others, averaging 11.04 yards per attempt and 7.46 yards per dropback against Detroit.
The way the Lions have played against opposing quarterbacks this season, though, that would be close to average.