Detroit Lions first year head coach Matt Patricia became a hot coaching candidate due to his reputation as a defensive genius.
General Manager Bob Quinn, who was intimately familiar with Patricia during their time together in New England, must've figured that he could optimize the team's chances for success by pairing his franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, with a top-end defense.
The early returns suggested Quinn misfired with his strategy. The team's first nine games saw an average of over 27 points and 362 yards against per game.
That trend has not continued over the last four weeks, where the defense has stiffened by yielding only 18.8 points and 319 yards per.
Those four games weren't necessarily against pushover offenses either. Carolina, Chicago and Los Angles all rank in the top 12 of points scored per game and all three scored less than their season average when playing the Lions.
Granted Sunday's match up against the Cardinals helped pad the stats but Arizona fell short of their already-low offensive standards by scoring three points (season average of 14.6).
It was clear that the Lions' defenders weren't comfortable in Patricia's defense to start the year. This was especially evident in the back-end where blown coverages seemed to be a regular occurrence.
At least for now, the Lions have seemed to clean those errors up a bit while the run defense has bordered on dominant as only the Rams averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry against the Lions improved front over the last five games.
The defensive front should return it's key contributors next year, with A'Shawn Robinson, Damon Harrison and Da'Shawn Hand offering exciting potential while a deep draft for defensive lineman creates the possibility to add.
It's clear the Lions want to employee a Patriots-esque defensive strategy where they prevent big plays, exploit the opposition's tendencies and attempt to minimize damage from the other team's top weaponry.
Imagine how effective that strategy could be if the Lions offense gets back on track.
That's a whole other conversation, of course. However, Stafford's presence provides real hope the Lions could accomplish that with the right off-season tweaks.
There are no guarantees in the NFL but, in a year marred with disappointment and discouragement, there is a reason to think things could turn around quickly.