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4 things we learned in the Detroit Lions’ win over the Carolina Panthers

The Lions rebounded nicely for a win versus the Panthers - what did we learn from the victory?

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions pulled off a big 20-19 upset over the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon. Here are four things we learned from the game.

Kenny Golladay is an elite receiver

When the Lions traded away Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, they knew it was a gamble. You’re jettisoning one of your best receivers, an established YAC King, for a draft pick that may-or-may-not result in a serviceable NFL player. Your depth is diminished, but at least you still have Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay.

Then Marvin Jones suffered a knee injury last week and was out for the game versus the Carolina Panthers.

Golladay was spectacular, nabbing eight catches for 113 yards. It wasn’t Golladay’s highest yardage total on the season—he had 114 yards in Week 1—but the manner in which he did it was nothing short of amazing. He flat-out stole an interception from a Panthers cornerback, like a bully stealing a preschooler’s lunch money. It was vicious.

Then he had this:

I am speechless. Golladay has been incredible at using his size to win battles versus corners and using his catch radius to make ridiculous plays like this. He’s quickly blossoming into an elite receiver in the NFL. Dare I say that he’s a top-10 receiver? Perhaps I’m drinking the Honolulu blue Kool-Aid, but you can’t deny that he has been a nightmare for opposing defenses when he gets the ball.

Happy Golladays everyone.

This offense needs Kerryon Johnson

Another youngster having an immediate impact for the Detroit Lions is rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. He has supplanted LeGarrette Blount as the primary back, and he has thrived in the role. Johnson was having an excellent day, tallying 87 yards on 15 carries and this smooth touchdown:

Unfortunately, disaster struck in dreaded third quarter. Johnson was tackled awkwardly, and landed hard on his knee. He was able to walk off the field, but he promptly went to the locker room and never returned.

If this is a significant injury—we always fear ACL injuries—it will be a huge blow to this Lions offense, and they honestly can’t replace him. In his stead is the aforementioned Blount, who recorded seven carries for 1 yard.

One. Single. Yard. On the season, he’s averaging 2.3 yards per carry. He looks slow, he doesn’t have vision to hit the holes, and he offers nothing as a receiver. If Johnson is out, this rushing attack is dead in the water. Handing to Blount is a waste of a down. I would prefer if the Lions went with Zach Zenner over Blount—he can’t be worse, right? Ironically, the player who could best replace Johnson was waived two weeks ago: Ameer Abdullah. Say what you want about his fumbling problems, but he is far better than Blount.

The team hasn’t quit on Patricia yet

Head coach Matt Patricia has gotten a lot of flak in recent weeks, and for good reason. This previous three-game losing streak was completely demoralizing and uninspiring. Special teams coordinator Joe Marciano was fired, but you could hardly blame the team’s failures on him. Patricia has been defensive towards reporters, including a tirade regarding the Lions’ decision to practice outside in the snow despite four upcoming dome games—I firmly believe it was overblown, but his response showed that tensions were high in Detroit.

This was an excellent way to stop the skid. The Panthers were one of the better teams to face the Lions this season, and they did a mostly good job shutting them down. Rookie receiver D.J. Moore went off for 157 yards, sure, but most of those came on a single 82-yard gain. The secondary is going to make mistakes — Teez Tabor gave up another brutal touchdown—but there were some signs of improvement from the defense.

Ezekiel Ansah, Devon Kennard, and Jarrad Davis registered sacks on the elusive Cam Newton, the Davis sack occurring at the Detroit 4-yard line. Darius Slay continues to play with passion, notching another four finger wags. The run defense, even without the injured A’Shawn Robinson, have been excellent, limiting Christian McCaffrey to 53 rushing yards. Even undrafted rookie Mike Ford, who technically gave up the 82-yard catch to Moore, played decently.

This team showed some heart, and although Carolina made it close, Patricia’s team succeeded when it mattered most.

The Lions have somehow convinced an ancient Sumerian demon to possess opposing kickers

I do not understand how this has happened.

Mason Crosby had a nightmarish game versus the Lions, missing four field goals and one extra point. The Green Bay Packers lost by eight.

The Chicago Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey had a historic game versus the Lions, missing four kicks—two field goals and two extra points — while managing to hit the upright on all four attempts. I cannot verify this stat, but I am 98.4 percent certain that nobody has ever done this before.

Enter Graham Gano. The Panthers kicker was nearly perfect on the season, converting all 11 field goals and 24-of-26 extra points. Last season, he was 29-for-30 on field goal attempts. Gano has established himself as one of the best kickers in the league.

Then, at 9:16 in the third quarter, it happened.

DOINK.

Gano put a 32-yard field goal attempt off the upright.

Later in the fourth quarter, Cam Newton found Curtis Samuel for a 12-yard touchdown pass. The extra point? Shanked wide left.

The Panthers scored another late touchdown, and instead of kicking the extra point to tie, they opted to try a two-point conversion. It failed, and the subsequent onside kick ended Carolina’s chance at a comeback.

Had Gano made those two kicks, it would have been a different story. The Lions could have been down with a minute left in the game. They were without Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson. They had been unable to mount comebacks all season. This was another game where the Lions benefited from kicking miscues.

As for why this is happening, I had to hypothesize. While Gano’s and Crosby’s misses occurred inside Ford Field, Parkey’s misses came at Soldier Field. Ergo, it could not have been the stadium. Joe Marciano was fired before the Bears game, so it could not have been him using Jedi mind tricks to move the balls. Thus, the only logical conclusion is that the Detroit Lions made a deal with a spiritual entity to curse opposing kickers. My guess is that they sacrificed Jim Caldwell to the Sumerian demon Pazuzu, the king of the demons of the wind.

Or kickers are inconsistent. One or the other.