Despite having a quarterback with a broken finger, the Lions started the game throwing deep resulting in a drop, an over throw and an interception. The defense responded with a pick of their own to bail the offense out, who would promptly turn the ball over again on the ensuing drive.
The Lions didn’t respond to adversity last week, but they finally responded by calling some plays to keep the pressure off Stafford and they scored in three plays. However they immediately let the Panthers take momentum back with a score of their own.
Special teams have been awful, repeatedly being undone by a lack of discipline. They abandoned their rush lanes giving up the 101 yard return, then respond by running it out 8 yards deep putting the offense in a hole starting inside the 15.
The Lions immediately went back to the pass, resulting in a sack, false start, 8 yard gain and a 2 yard run by Stafford. The Lions punted and the Panthers took over on the Lions 48, forcing the defense to defend a short field again. They responded to adversity by forcing a three and out, but again had a stupid penalty give the Panthers an automatic first down. The Panthers promptly rip off a long run and score touchdown two plays later.
The Lions responded back by finally going to a short passing game to get the ball out of Stafford’s hands quickly and keeping the offense on schedule.
Just before halftime another stupid penalty wiped out a three and out and the Panthers drive continued rather than the Lions getting the ball back with good field position and around two minutes on the clock. The Panthers would easily move down the field and extend the lead to 13 before the half.
The Lions got back to basics to start the second half running the ball and using the short passing game to keep the rush off Stafford. Stafford got into a groove and led two scoring drives hitting Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler for touchdowns.
Stupid penalties continue to hamper the Lions this season as Cliff Avril had a horse collar penalty that gave the Panthers a first down when they had been stopped on 3rd. DeAndre Levy bailed the Lions out later in the drive with a huge interception.
I have been pleading with the Lions’ coaching staff to run the ball out of traditional formations rather than out of the shotgun. They finally did today and Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris gave the Lions a ground game for the first time since the Monday Night Football game.
The Lions took the game over in the second half by keeping the Panthers off balance with the run, short passing game and then taking shots downfield once the Panthers were off balance. I do not understand why a second half deficit is the catalyst for balanced play calling, rather than just opening the game with it.
Kevin Smith was the story of today’s game, as well he should be. Smith’s career with the Lions has been a roller coaster as injuries kept him from realizing his potential. Now that he had an opportunity to get healthy he is showing what made him a third round pick. Smith is a violent runner that can catch, pass protect and takes care of the football. He has a great attitude and he suffered through some terrible seasons with the Lions, it was great to see him enjoy the success for once.