The Detroit Lions (4-1) welcomed the Carolina Panthers (0-5) to Ford Field in the knowledge that they were missing key starters on both sides of the ball, in WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, one of the league's best wideouts, and NB Brian Branch, who has been so impressive this season and who has become extra important following CJ Gardner-Johnson moving to injured reserve. Not to mention that rookie 1st round RB Jahmyr Gibbs also missed out.
So, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this one would be a trap game, especially given the closing spread on this game being 10 points in favor of the Lions.
The Lions have made a habit of putting their fans through several heart attacks in recent decades, making close games of easy wins and snatching defeats and wins, from the jaws of wins and defeats. But they were in no mood to do that to them this game, holding the Panthers in their first possession, going 81 yards in 3 plays (including a 42-yard TD run by David Montgomery), Aidan Hutchinson intercepting Bryce Young deep in Panthers territory, and Sam LaPorta catching a short play action pass for a 4-yard TD, all in the first 10:07 of the game to lead by 14.
The Panthers for a brief moment threatened a comeback, going on a 14-play, 75-yard drive ending in a 1-yard Tommy Tremble TD, and then turning the Lions over on downs on the CAR 37 after an ill-advised swing pass on 4th & 4 to Montgomery. But any Panthers hopes were promptly dashed in the most incredible 7 minutes you are ever likely to see!
The first play after turning over the Lions, free agent signing Miles Sanders fumbled following an amazing punch-out by Alim McNeill. The Lions then took 6 minutes and 10 plays to go 38 yards, finished by a lovely toe-tap TD by Josh Reynolds to restore the Lions' 14-point lead. In the very next play, Jerry Jacobs baited Bryce into a poor 2nd INT of the day as he tried to thread the needle between a Cover-2 CB and S. The Lions then took 1 play to go 31 yards, with a fabulous double-reverse flea-flicker trick play to get Sam LaPorta wide open for his 2nd TD of the day and a 21 point lead.
The remainder of the game was fairly processional, but professional by the Lions who slowed the game down and retained control. Goff got a 2nd rushing TD of the season with a 1-yard sneak, and the final offensive drive was the Craig Reynolds show, going 6 plays for 48 yards and a TD, including 5 straight rushes in the 7-play drive. The Panthers forwent attempting to win the game in favor of running their usual offense, scoring two slow TDs to finish the game, one by the returning DJ Chark and the other by former Viking Adam Thielen.
All in all, this is one of the most impressive victories of the Holmes/Campbell era. Yes, it was against a winless team, but not a hopeless team, that still has significant pieces on both sides of the ball. But this was a depleted Lions who had to test their depth, especially since CB Emmanual Moseley recovered from his ACL last season, only to go down on his 2nd snap of the year with another. The trenches dominated on both sides, Goff was rarely under pressure and Young was under constant pressure. The referees bottled a safety call on Young when he committed intentional grounding with the ball in the end zone when faced with pressure from Romeo Okwara. And the Lions' depth really showed up, with maybe Will Harris' best outing of his Lions tenure, Jerry getting another INT, and Tracy Walker continuing to ascend in place of CJGJ.
The BRAND NEW LIONS are deep, and they're proving it, emphatically.
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