Lions’ playoff chances dim after 37-23 loss at Panthers

Lions Shane Zylstra after TD catch.

On a day when the Lions needed their best effort, nothing seemed to work in a 37-23 loss to the Panthers at Carolina on Christmas eve.

Coach Dan Campbell said his team wasn’t physically, emotionally or mentally ready to play and he placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders.

“They got after us pretty good. That’s a hard pill to swallow. You say things but ultimately when you play that way it falls on me, I didn’t have them ready to go,’’ Campbell said. “That wasn’t good enough. That was a hungry team we played and we didn’t look as hungry as they did. That’s the bottom line.’’

For starters, the defense was pitiful, allowing 240 rushing yards in the first half and 320 overall rushing. It was the most rushing yards the Lions had allowed since 1998. Detroit’s defense gave up 570 yards total.

An embarrassing day for the defense which had been playing solid football in the winning stretch. It looked more like the defense from the 1-6. 

“A couple of things we hadn’t done in weeks or we’ve done a good job of – we don’t turn the ball over on offense and we stop the run on defense – and those two things didn’t happen today,’’ Campbell said.

Despite the embarrassing loss, the Lions’ playoff hopes are slim but remain alive. But no matter what else happened around the league, they have to reset to face the Bears next Sunday at Ford Field. Then they wrap up the season on Jan .7 or 8 at Green Bay. Detroit did get help with a Chiefs’ win over the Seahawks, 24-10; a Vikings win over the Giants, 27-24; and a 49ers 37-20 win over the Commanders.

On the plus side, tight end Shane Zylstra had three touchdown catches, getting his third with less than 4 minutes left. The Lions didn’t give up, but the deficit was just too big. Jared Goff was 25 of 42 for 355 yards and the three touchdown passes to Zylstra. He fumbled a snap, and the Panthers recovered on Detroit’s 9-yard line in the first quarter. A touchdown there would have given the Lions a 14-7 lead.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

(Up next: Chicago Bears (3-12) at Lions (7-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 1. The Bills beat the Bears, 35-13, on Saturday.)


Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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