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O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: Is there cause for concern?

Posted Oct 8, 2017

Mike O'Hara answers all of the burning questions following the Detroit Lions' 27-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Burning questions:A big picture look at the Detroit Lions and what too much Cam Newton, too much Ed Dickson and not enough offense until the end meant, and a possible tight end question for the Lions in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field.

Question: As one-sided as the game was for a long time – with the Panthers holding a 27-10 lead until a late rally by the Lions -- does it mean there is cause for concern about the Lions or can it be considered “just one of those games”?

Answer: A little of both, and that’s not hedging. Until the late rally it was a bad performance for the offense and defense – and I think the offense was a bigger culprit – but on its own it’s just one of those games that can happen in a season.

That doesn’t mean it can be taken lightly. If the Lions can’t rebound in next week’s road game against the Saints, then there definitely will be cause for concern – especially with the way the offense has performed in the last two games.

Q. Offense: What was worst stat for the offense?

A. In six of their first eight possessions the offense failed to gain a first down. In those six possessions, the offense ran 16 plays and had a net gain of one yard. One yard? That’s unacceptable.

Q. Defense: What was the worst stat for the defense?

A. It was the four catches for 152 yards that tight end Ed Dickson had – in the first half.  And he added to it in the second half. Dickson is a solid, veteran tight end, but the way he got open against the Lions was as if it was a passing drill in training camp without the players wearing pads.

It’s not that easy, obviously. You have to design plays and execute them, but there was nothing to show that Ed Dickson had that kind of performance. He had six catches for 96 yards in the first four games combined.

And the defense gave up other big plays. The clincher was a third-down catch by Kelvin Benjamin that let the Panthers gain a first down and run out the clock.

Q. Rally value: Was it meaningless that the Lions came back, or did it mean something?

A. It meant something. Nothing’s meaningless when it means giving the team a chance to win, and the offense did that. And it isn’t meaningless that the offense could move the ball for the first 50 minutes of the game. That counts, too.

Q. End zone, drop zone: The Lions had to settle for a field goal on the first possession when Eric Ebron couldn’t come up with a pass in the end zone. Should he have caught it?

A. Yes. There was traffic in the end zone, but when the ball hits the hands, it should be a catch. No question. 

Q. Darren Fells TDs: He had four catches, all for first downs, against the Vikings last week and was on the receiving end of Matthew Stafford’s two TD passes in the last five minutes. Does that mean he might move ahead of Ebron on the depth chart?

A. Tough call on that one, but reliability and production are assets in making decisions on playing time and status. Ebron had problems with dropped passes in his first three seasons, and it obviously has continued this year.

Nothing should be out of the question.

Q. Counting points: The Lions settled for a field goal after Ebron’s drop. A touchdown would have given them seven points, and they wound up losing by three. Is it fair to call that play the deciding factor?

A. It didn’t help, but there was too much football left for one play to lose the game. The Panthers also got a field goal after recovering a fumble on a sack of Stafford. It all adds up.

Q. Panthers tricks, TD: They fooled the Lions’ defense twice on a drive to a second quarter touchdown that made it 10-10. What happened?

A. Cam Newton’s threat to run was the difference on both plays. He doesn’t run as often as he used to, but the threat is always there, and it was evident on that TD drive.

The first time was on a 57-yard catch and run by tight end Ed Dickson to the Lions’ nine-yard line. It was a short-yard situation – third and one – and Newton rolled left. When the defense committed to stopping him, Dickson was wide open for an easy catch.

On the touchdown – a six-yard catch by rookie Christian McCaffrey – it was a similar situation. Newton rolled left, then shoveled the ball to McCaffrey who had an open lane to the end zone for the touchdown.