Back-to-back beatdowns? You know it.
The Detroit Lions are flying high to the tune of a 4-1 start. The Carolina Panthers were little more than a speedbump for the red-hot Lions offense. Not to be outdone, the defense pulled its weight and generated some crucial, big-time moments.
Here are some takeaways from the Lions’ Week 5 win over the Panthers:
Freshly baked turnovers
It’s one thing to win the turnover battle, it’s another to stomp your opponent with them. The Panthers committed three first-half turnovers, and the Lions offense turned each and every one them into a touchdown. An Aidan Hutchinson interception—absolutely bonkers—was followed up with a Sam LaPorta touchdown. Alim McNeill would force a fumble on Miles Sanders, and the Lions would cap off the ensuing drive with a Josh Reynolds toe-tapping touchdown. On the very next drive, Bryce Young floated an ill-advised pass straight to Jerry Jacobs, and the Lions answered with a dagger:
The Lions defense was setting them up, the offense was knocking them down.
No St. Brown, no problem
Amon-Ra St. Brown has unquestionably been a safety blanket for Jared Goff, and there was some concern how the offense would fare without him.
Against the Panthers, it hardly skipped a beat. David Montgomery had another 100-yard rushing game. Sam LaPorta had a two-touchdown game as he cements himself as a top tight end in the league. Josh Reynolds made some big-time catches en route to leading the team in receiving yards. Even Craig Reynolds took over a drive late in the game and scored his first touchdown.
Goff continues to play phenomenal football to start the season, and the Lions have yet to have an offense at full health. That’s an exciting prospect with Ben Johnson at the helm.
Receivers paving the way
It’s rare for a team’s receivers to be more outstanding as blockers than actual receivers, but that was arguably the case on Sunday against the Panthers. The Lions churned out some solid runs throughout the game, and the blocking by the wideouts were crucial. Jameson Williams will catch some flak for a drop in his return to the lineup, but he delivered two impactful blocks on long runs by Montgomery and Reynolds:
For a team that loves to run the ball, getting solid blocking from their wide receivers is a boon.
Kicking woes looming?
Riley Patterson is perfect on the year, but there are shades of concern with his usage:
Can’t be punting from the opponent’s 38. Inexcusable to go week in and week out remaining complacent with your roster knowing you won’t go for those field goals.— Hamza Baccouche #BNL (@HamzaPOD) October 8, 2023
The Lions have shied away from kicking long field goals, and while that might be reflective of Dan Campbell’s aggressiveness, it also highlights the lack of range from Patterson. Kicking a field goal beyond 50 yards is not a rarity in the NFL, yet the Lions seem incapable of it. Instead of attempting a field goal from the Carolina 38-yard line (a 55 yard attempt), they instead took an intentional penalty and punted.
Credit to the coaches for realizing their weakness instead of trotting out Patterson for near-unmakeable attempts, but at the same time, this could prove to be a significant issue down the stretch.
More mysterious challenges
For as good as Dan Campbell has been since taking over as head coach, his recent streak of challenges have been questionable. A week after challenging a very obvious non-interception by Tracy Walker and losing, Campbell pulled out the challenge flag for another questionable decision. This time, it was an 18-yard pass to DJ Chark that had no chance of being overturned. This occurred on the Panthers’ first drive of the game, and while it led to no points, it meant losing a timeout for essentially nothing. The Lions might need to clean up their challenging process.
Ford Field is rocking
Who else is down for a home playoff game? Ford Field has been loud early and often this season, the energy on the field being matched by the crowd. Ford Field had not always been a happy place for Lions fans in previous years thanks to the woeful seasons, but the tune has changed in Detroit and Ford Field is now on par with the loudest stadiums in the league. The fans deserve wins like these.
John’s Turning Point: Jerry Jacobs’ interception of Bryce Young
This was more of a poor decision than a great interception, but it nonetheless changed the tide of the game. The Panthers were trying to bounce back from a fumble on their prior drive and respond to Detroit’s touchdown drive. Instead, the Lions were gifted an interception that they promptly turned into seven points. That put the Panthers behind 28-7 and it never got any closer.
Had the Panthers mounted a scoring drive, it could have been 21-14 and a far more competitive affair.