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Pregame Analysis: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers

The Detroit Lions enter Week 2 by paying a visit to North Carolina for their first road test of the season against the Panthers. For Detroit –a team that is a week removed from a strong 35-14 victory over the Giants- a road competition against a playoff team poses a challenge that they have struggled to rise up to in years past. No doubt the Lions play Carolina as slight underdogs but they do have the momentum of  an offense that went 10 for 15 on third down on Monday, a defense that held the Giants to 2.4 yards per rush m and a whole team that trimmed down its penalties throughout the game.

The biggest variable the Lions faced this week is the health status of Carolina QB Cam Newton. Newton was questionable at the start of this week following his absence from the Panthers’ okay 20-14 win over Tampa Bay. His status is now probable, and should he play all eyes will be on the Lions’ front seven and how they handle an elusive and mobile dual threat quarterback. But beyond containing Newton, the ultimate question facing Detroit will be if they can win on the road against a playoff team. In the last five seasons, the Lions have gone only 12-28 away from Ford Field, an issue Coach Jim Caldwell recognizes and seems to know how to combat.

“You have to travel with poise…Things are going to be a little different, so poise is extremely important for you in particular with dealing with crowds and things of that nature. Passion for the game is something I think you have to carry with you. It’s one of the things I think when you travel that you better make certain that it rings true and what’s part of your DNA is displayed out there on the field in foreign territory,” said Caldwell in his mid-week press conference.

 

Game Information

Date: Sunday, September 14th

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET

Stadium: Bank of America Stadium (73,778 capacity)

Television: FOX

Television Broadcasting Team: Chris Myers (Play-By-Play); Ronde Barber (Color); Jennifer Hale (Sideline)

Detroit Radio: 97.1 The Ticket WXYT-FM

Radio Broadcasting Team: Dan Miller (Play-By-Play); Jim Brandstatter (Color); Tony Ortiz (Sideline)

 

Player Notes

On the injury front, the Lions enter tomorrow slightly banged up following Monday night, leaving some uncertainty at certain positions. Headlining the list is RT LaAdrian Waddle (hamstring) who has been ruled out. Waddle is an experienced and key cog on Matthew Stafford’s right side, leaving the Lions so far undecided between veteran Garrett Reynolds and undrafted rookie Cornellius Lucas to start instead. Reliable special teamer and backup safety Don Carey (calf) has also been ruled out, leaning the secondary down slightly. Next to Carey in the secondary is S James Ihedigbo (neck) who is doubtful to play and yet to find game time since the second preseason game against Oakland. The absence of both Carey and Ihedigbo will mean that Isa Adbul-Quddus will retain his starting spot next to Glover Quin as the deep defensive backfield. Both RB Reggie Bush (knee) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot) were limited in practice earlier in the week but have made steady improvement and are not declared probable.

The Lions will face two particular challenges posed by the Panthers’ defense but still seem to have enough tools on offense to counteract Carolina. The first challenge will be Carolina’s pass rush, which is lead by explosive DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. It doesn’t help to miss Waddle, but both ends are potentially the best outside duo in the NFL following a 2013 campaign that featured 26 sacks and 87 QB hurries between the two. In spite of the excellent rush, the Lions offensive line only gave up one sack against New York on a night when Matthew Stafford went 22 of 32 for 346 yards and two touchdowns. The pressure should also be mitigated if a healthy Reggie Bush can offer screen pass help and Golden Tate can continue to be a quick, underneath threat for Stafford. The second challenge Detroit will face is a Carolina secondary that only conceded 162 net pass yards last week. Albeit against Tampa Bay, the Panthers jammed well at the line and boast big and strong defensive backs. Fortunately, the Lions compliment fast receivers with extremely shifty and big tight ends; the advantage still belongs to Detroit by virtue of having too many weapons for Carolina to cover.

If the Lions’ can handle the outside rush and physical secondary on offense, then they should be able to generate an early advantage defensively. Again, granted it was against a weak Giants team, but the Lions do currently rank 2nd in the NFL in pass defense and 3rd in rush defense. The front seven is clearly stout and gritty, but the trio of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and George Johnson will be particularly advantageous against Carolina, who rotated three different guards against Tampa Bay last week. The extra attention devoted to the interior will allow the Lions to be more creative with Ziggy Ansah as well as their blitz packages. But the Lions’ front seven also lines up well against Panther RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewert. The duo looked modest at best against Tampa Bay, accumulating 23 rushes for just 92 yards making an even more favorable scenario for the Lions’ defensive core. With a shaky ground game and offensive line, the only imminent threat facing the defense outside of Newton’s elusiveness will be Panther TE Greg Olsen and WR Kevin Benjamin. Last week Olsen snagged eight balls for 83 yards and a touchdown while Benjamin (who is 6’5 and 240 lbs) had six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Although the Lions’ secondary still remains a big question mark, assuming DeAndre Levy can cover Olsen downfield with help from Quinn and Adbul-Quddus over the top, the Lions’ main concern will be sizing up and jamming Benjamin.

 

Historical Matchup

Detroit vs. Carolina Regular Season Record: 2-4

Last Meeting: 11/20/2011; Detroit 49 – Carolina 35 in Detroit

Record in Detroit: 1-1

Record in Raleigh: 1-3

 

Other Game Notes

The Lions will continue to sport an honorary jersey patch displaying the letters “WCF” in respect of the franchise’s late owner, William Clay Ford. Mr. Ford passed away on March 9th of this year at the age of 88, having owned and directed the Lions through 50 years.

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28 Comments

  1. Heard Suh is hungry for a Fig Newton! Hope that dude has his laces and chin strap tight. Carolina tabby cats bout to get a Detroit lesson in football. Go Lions!!!

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