DETROIT — It was the Cam Newton show most of the afternoon at Ford Field on Sunday.
The Panthers quarterback wasn’t perfect but he was close as Carolina defeated the Lions, 27-24.
The Lions, who dropped to 3-2, play at New Orleans on Sunday.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
Detroit’s defense, which has been its backbone in the first four games, didn’t have an answer for Newton.
Detroit’s offense was out of kilter too. And, that’s being nice.
Here are five reasons the Lions lost:
1. The Lions’ defense missed tackles and alignments consistently. Panthers wide receiver Ed Dickson tore them up with five catches for 175 yards. Newton finished 26 of 33 for 355 yards, that’s by far the most Detroit’s defense has given up this season. Coming in second was holding Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to 277 yards. “It just comes with preparation the way you prepare for a game, the way you set yourself up during the week,’’ rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “You have to make sure you’re putting yourself in the best position in the game to where it’s second nature. it’s almost automatic you think about coming in flush and hitting a guy and cleaning up a guy without thinking about it. It’s muscle memory and repetition that’s going to create that.’’
2. The Lions offense didn’t find a rhythm until the fourth quarter and by then it was too late. “I wish I would have played better earlier in the game but I appreciate the effort our guys had, great battle. It’s a really good football team we just faced. We’ve got to find a way to play a little better on offense, especially early on,’’ said Matthew Stafford who was 23 of 35 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Tight end Darren Fells had two touchdown catches and Zach Zenner had a one-yard touchdown run.
3. Stafford blew off questions about his protection. Still, everyone at Ford Field could see that it was an issue. He was sacked six times which matches the same number against the Vikings in the win a week ago. It is an issue. One time he might not get up. In fact, he came up hobbling late in the game with a wonky right ankle. He wouldn’t address the injury situation after the game. The protection is not all on left tackle Greg Robinson, but part of it is. “I think that’s one of the things that we have to do is No. 1 for us, is protection for our quarterback. We got to be able to do well there,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “And now, here’s the thing, you’ll look at it and you’ll see some plays, but you may not know exactly what’s going on. It’s not just the offensive line. It’s not just – there’s a lot of people involved in protections, so we got to get that straightened out, all the people that are involved in that.”
4. The Lions were just 5 of 13 on third-down conversions. In other words, not enough. “There were a couple of third downs that were pretty manageable, you have to get those to stay on the field, those are big downs,’’ Zenner said. Tight End Eric Ebron dropped a pass in the end zone on a third-and-10 in the first quarter. In the third quarter on a third-and-1 Stafford couldn’t connect with Ebron. They went for it on fourth-and-1 on the next play and Zenner was stuffed by Julius Peppers for a 4-yard loss. “Those conversions, if you don’t get those, they’re going to catch up to you. Third down is a big down in this league and I think it’s one thing that showed today,’’ Zenner said. The Panthers converted seven of 16 third-down attempts.
5. In the first four games the Lions defense have 11 takeaways (seven interceptions, four fumbles recovered). On Sunday they had zero. “You get them where you can. We’d like to have them. We gave up one, we didn’t get any, but you still have to win ball games. That’s not how you strictly win by the turnover margin, you still have to execute as well. We just didn’t execute as well,’’ Caldwell said. The Lions lost a fumble to the Panthers so they’re plus-8 for the season on the takeaway/giveaway ratio. And, as Stafford said: “You don’t go into a game thinking the other team is going to make a bunch of mistakes, you go into a game trying to execute as well as you can.’’ The LIons didn’t execute and they know it.
BONUS: The loss is not all on Ebron but the tight end did not have a good game once again. He is a different type of tight end than Darren Fells (Ebron is faster, Fells is taller and bigger) but once again Fells had a better game. Fells, a former professional basketball player, had just two catches (24 yards) but both were for touchdowns.”It just doesn’t boil down to one player. We had a number of things go wrong,’’ Caldwell said when asked about Ebron.