Panthers-Lions Preview

BY foxsports • November 16, 2011

Seeing as the main reason for Detroit's brutal offensive performance in last weekend's lopsided loss was gusting winds - that is, according to Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford - the Lions shouldn't have much trouble offensively over the next month.

Facing a struggling Carolina Panthers defense also could help the unit get back on track.

Opening a stretch of four straight indoor games, Detroit looks to bounce back from a humbling defeat Sunday when it hosts the Panthers.

After starting the season with five consecutive wins, the Lions (6-3) have dropped three of four. They had a chance Sunday to sweep the season series from NFC North rival Chicago, which also would have given them a two-game lead over the Bears, but were handed a 37-13 loss.

Detroit and Chicago currently own the NFC's two wild-card spots, with Dallas and Atlanta each a game back.

"We are 6-3, we don't want to forget about that, and we had a chance to put this team way behind us, and we didn't," Schwartz said. "We still have seven games to play, we have a long way to go and how we bounce back from this game in the long run will be more important than what happened (Sunday)."

What happened Sunday was undoubtedly the team's worst performance of the season.

The Lions finished with six turnovers - four interceptions and two fumbles - one more than they had through their first eight games. Stafford had thrown four picks all season before matching that total in the span of six possessions Sunday.

Stafford, who finished 33 of 63 for 329 yards with a fourth-quarter touchdown, wore a glove on his right hand to cover a splint protecting a fractured finger.

After the game, Schwartz and Stafford both repeatedly blamed the wind, which gusted around 30 mph, and not the quarterback's finger or even the Bears' defense for the interceptions.

The Lions won't have to worry about playing in the elements for a while. Three of their next four games are at Ford Field, with the only road contest coming at New Orleans' Superdome on Dec. 4.

Detroit, however, has lost its last two home games, averaging 17.5 points and 286.5 yards, but should fare a bit better against Carolina (2-8).

The Panthers, who have lost a franchise-worst 11 straight road games, rank 30th in the NFL in scoring defense (26.3 per game) this season, and are 29th in total defense (373.2 yards per game) since Week 5.

Carolina allowed 383 yards in a 30-3 loss to Tennessee last Sunday, but the defense wasn't the only problem. The offense, which came in ranked fifth in the league, finished with 279 yards - 121 less than its average. The Panthers also turned the ball over twice and had 12 penalties for 99 yards.

"We didn't do anything right," tight end Greg Olsen said. "There isn't one thing that we can hang our hat on. It was just an overall pathetic effort by us."

Cam Newton seemed confused by the Titans' defensive strategy, which was to put a spy on him. He completed 23 of 40 passes for 212 yards with an interception and was sacked a season-high five times. Steve Smith, the NFC leader with 951 receiving yards, was limited to five catches for 33 yards.

Newton ran for 55 yards but didn't get much help from the rest of Carolina's ground game, as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 58 rushing yards.

"We'll continue to have ups and downs, but it's how we handle the downs that's going to dictate who we are," coach Ron Rivera said. "This is a good opportunity for us to bounce back and play well."

It could be tough for Newton and the offense to rebound.

Detroit enters Week 11 tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks (26) and seventh in total defense (318.4 ypg). The unit, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh, limited Chicago's Matt Forte to 67 yards - less than half his NFC-leading average.

Although the Lions succeeded in shutting down one of the NFL's top running backs, their best running back's health remains an issue.

Jahvid Best has missed the last three games because of a concussion, and Detroit is averaging 99.0 rushing yards without him.

The Lions have lost four in a row to the Panthers since beating them 24-9 in their first meeting in 1999. They haven't met since 2008, when Williams rushed for 120 yards and two scores and Stewart ran for 130 yards with one TD in Carolina's 31-22 victory.

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