Detroit Lions vs Carolina Panthers: An In Depth Game Review

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The Lions Lost A Frustrating Game To The Panthers 27-24. Here’s How It Happened.


1st Quarter

The Lions started the game with possession of the football, and looked good early as they picked up first downs with an Ameer Abdullah run and a Marvin Jones reception. Aided by a 30 yard pass interference penalty from the Panthers defense that put the ball at the 12 yard line.

However, Detroit was unable to move the ball after this due to an Eric Ebron drop in the end zone, and they had to settle for a field goal.

Carolina picked up one first down on their first possession, but couldn’t do anything thereafter and had to punt. Detroit proceeded to go three and out on their ensuing possession.

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The Panthers next drive got off to a hot start as Cam Newton found tight end Ed Dickson for a 64 yard pass to get the ball to the Detroit four yard line. The Lions defense actually tightened up after that though, and held Carolina to a field goal, tying the game at three.

Zach Zenner picked up a Lions first down on the next possession with a 14 yard rush, then Matthew Stafford found Marvin Jones and Theo Riddick for two more first downs before the quarter ended.

Game tied at 3

2nd Quarter

The second quarter started with two consecutive facemask penalties on Carolina’s defense, putting the Lions inside the five yard line. Zach Zenner was then able to run in a touchdown from one yard out, giving the Lions a seven point lead.

Carolina had a strong answer to the score though, as Ed Dickson made another huge play, this time catching a pass for 57 yards. The Panthers got inside the Lions 10 yard line with the reception, and then Cam Newton found rookie running back Christian McCaffrey for a six yard touchdown pass.

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The next three drives were all three and outs, setting Carolina up with the ball right before halftime.

On this possession, Carolina went on a long 7 play, 73 yard drive that ended with a Cam Newton touchdown pass to Devin Funchess to put Carolina ahead by seven going into the half.

The Lions got the ball back, but were unable to score any points before time ran out in the second quarter.

Panthers lead 17-10

3rd Quarter

The Panthers started the second half with the ball, and marched right down the field with Cam Newton passes of 23 yards to Ed Dickson and 31 yards to Benjamin, the 31 yarder being a touchdown. This gave Carolina a 14 point lead.

Detroit’s opening possession of the third quarter didn’t last very long, as Matthew Stafford lost a fumble on the first play. This set Carolina up in great field position, and they kicked a field goal to take a commanding 17 point third quarter lead.

Both teams went three and out on each of their next possessions.

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The Lions looked like they were starting to get something going on their next possession with a 12 yard Ameer Abdullah run for a first down, but they were only able to pick up nine yards on the next three plays. Facing fourth down and one to go, they handed the ball to Zach Zenner, who was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs to the Panthers.

Carolina picked up one first down with a, 11 yard Cam Newton pass, then the third quarter ended.

Panthers lead 27-10

4th Quarter

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cam Newton was sacked for a big 11 yard loss by Lions defensive tackle Akeem Spence. This forced Carolina to attempt a 55 yard field goal, which they missed wide right.

Detroit could not capitalize off of the miss, as Stafford was sacked twice and the Lions had to punt.

Carolina wasn’t able to do much on their next possession, and they too punted.

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Matthew Stafford quickly marched the Lions down the field on their next drive, hitting Golden Tate, Theo Riddick and Jared Abbrederis for first downs. Stafford eventually found tight end Darren Fells for a three yard touchdown, cutting Carolina’s lead to 10 points.

After forcing another Panther punt, the Lions offense again marched down the field, this time thanks to a 25 yard Jared Abbrederis reception. Matthew Stafford was able to find Darren Fells for a 20 yard touchdown with 3:22 left in the game, making it a three point game.

The Lions defense was unable to get another stop after this though, and Carolina was able to run out the clock after converting a third down with a 17 yard Kelvin Benjamin catch.

Panthers win 27-24

Key Stats

Carolina had the ball for 35:23, Detroit just 24:37

Carolina had the ball for a lot longer than Detroit throughout this game, and it showed. The Panthers had three long, clock eating touchdown drives from their offense in the second and third quarters, while Detroit consistently went three and out.

Matthew Stafford was sacked six times

For the second week and a row, Matthew Stafford was under siege all game. The offensive line collapsed many times through the game, and when they did by Stafford time, he held the ball for too long and took sacks anyway.

Cam Newton averaged 10.8 yards per passing attempt

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cam Newton had seemingly forever to throw any time he dropped back to pass. As a result, he tore apart the Lions defense and averaged more than 10 yards an attempt.

Newton completed 79% of his passes for 3 touchdowns with no turnovers

He also completed a ridiculously high percentage of his passes, three of which were touchdowns. If Detroit continues to be unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks, this will become a recurring theme.

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The Lions held Carolina to 28 rushing yards on 28 attempts

The biggest positive from this game was the Lions run defense. They shut down the Panthers backs all game, allowing just one yard per attempt. Jarrad Davis looked lost at times in pass coverage, but he was dominant in run defense.

The Lions offense had just 242 total yards

This was the second game in a row that the Lions failed to get over 300 yards of total offense. The Lions offense is really struggling right now, and they need to sort out some of the issues or else they will lose a lot more games like this one.

Detroit lost the turnover battle one to zero

The Lions lost the turnover battle for the first time this season on Sunday, as Stafford lost one fumble and, for the first time, the defense failed to generate a takeaway.

Detroit only committed one penalty 

This is the only other real positive takeaway from this game: the Lions only committed one penalty throughout the entire game.

Plays That Made The Game

Ed Dickson’s 64 yard reception set the tone for this game early. Dickson beat Tavon Wilson’s coverage and caught the ball at the 45 yard line, then ran for another 40 yards before being brought down. Detroit’s defense tightened up and held Carolina out of the end zone, but this was still a demoralizing defensive start.

Theo Riddick’s 21 yard catch made all star linebacker Luke Kuechly look silly. Riddick looked like his old self for the first time this season as he caught the short pass out of the backfield, made a ridiculous juke move, and then went up field for 20 yards.

Zach Zenner’s touchdown gave the Lions an early 10-3 lead in this game. Zenner made a couple of Panthers defenders miss in the backfield and did a good job of accelerating through the running lane into the end zone on this play.

Ed Dickson’s 58 yard reception was another busted coverage by the Lions defense. On third down and one, Detroit was committed to defending the run all the way. When Cam Newton faked the handoff, he found Dickson wide open for another huge gain.

Christian McCaffrey’s six yard touchdown was a nice triple option play design by Carolina. Newton had the option to pitch the ball to the running back, run it himself, or toss it to Christian McCaffrey. He chose the latter option, and it resulted in a touchdown.

Devin Funchess’ touchdown gave Carolina the halftime lead. Cam Newton had an eternity to throw on this play as Detroit only rushed three defenders. He eventually found Devin Funchess in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.

Kelvin Benjamin’s 31 yard touchdown put Carolina up by double digits. Newton perfectly placed the ball over Lions cornerback Darius Slay, and Benjamin was able to make the catch and keep his feet in bounds for the touchdown.

Matthew Stafford’s fumble set up a Carolina field goal. Stafford was immediately under pressure on this play, and lost the ball while trying to escape to the left. Lions tight end Darren Fells muffed on the attempted fumble recovery, and Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis came up with the ball.

Darren Fells’ first touchdown of the season put Detroit within 10 points of the Panthers lead. Matthew Stafford scrambled to the right before finding the 6’7″ Fells in the endzone, who was covered by a much smaller cornerback.

Darren Fells’ second touchdown made this game competitive. On third and 10, Fells was actually lined up as a slot receiver and caught an out route at about the seven yard line. Fells then did a great job of turning up field and getting into the endzone to make this a three point game.

Kelvin Benjamin’s third down conversion clinched the game for Carolina. The Lions would’ve had a chance to score again if they had stopped the Panthers here, but Kelvin Benjamin was a bad matchup for Darius Slay, and the Panthers were able to convert.

Player Of The Game

Darren Fells is the Lions player of the game. On a day when there were few bright spots for the Lions, Fells took advantage of his opportunities and really shined. After Eric Ebron struggled early in this game, he was benched for Darren Fells in the second half. Fells was effective blocking, and he caught two touchdown passes.

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Going forward, Darren Fells should be the Lions starting tight end. When Eric Ebron has faltered, Fells has stepped up and proven himself to be both a reliable blocker and a reliable target for Matthew Stafford.

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