FIRST DOWN: STAFFORD UNDER PRESSURE
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford walked slowly to a corner of the Lions locker room to do his postgame interview after Sunday's 27-24 loss to Carolina.
For the three hours prior, Stafford had been hit and pressured and then hit some more. So it's not surprising Stafford skipped the longer walk to his usual interview spot in the postgame room down the hall.
For a second week in a row, the Lions haven't been able to protect their franchise player. Stafford was sacked six times last week in Minnesota, and wound up on his back six more times this week. He was limping considerably toward the end of the fourth quarter because of the beating.
Stafford stood in front of the camera and the recorders and said all the right things after the game.
"I feel alright," he said. "Coach will talk to you guys about all that (injury) stuff.
"We just have to get into a rhythm earlier on offense. I wish I would have played better earlier in the game."
Stafford said the protection wasn't an issue, and he needed to do a better job getting rid of the football. While there's some merit to that second part, his teammates charged with protecting him -- and that includes the tight ends and running backs -- need to be better. They simply have to be better. This passing game can't get on track if the quarterback doesn't have time to survey the field and go through his reads.
This offense should take the beating Stafford has taken the last two weeks personally, and work to be much better next week against New Orleans.
"One time when he gets hit is too many," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. "Obviously, we've had – I'm talking about this game in particular – way too many. We have to get it fixed."
SECOND DOWN: FELLS STEPS UP
As Eric Ebron continues to squander his opportunities to make plays in the passing game because of drops, veteran Darren Fells seems to be getting more opportunities for himself, and he's taking advantage of it.
Ebron dropped a sure touchdown on Detroit's opening drive that took four points off the board, forcing the Lions to settle for a Matt Prater field goal. In an eventual three-point loss, those plays are huge.
Ebron dropped another would-be big play down the middle of the field in the second half. He finished with one catch for six yards on four targets.
Fells, on the other hand, helped Detroit get back into the game with two fourth-quarter touchdown catches after Detroit fell behind 27-10.
"Darren does what he does," Caldwell said. "He's been the same way, good and steady. The last couple weeks you've probably seen a little more of him. He's a talented guy. There's a role he plays for us, but he's not limited to just one single role.
If he continues to take advantage of opportunities in the pass game, we could continue to see more of Fells moving forward.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Fells said after the game of his role moving forward. "I'm thinking about what we need to do to get the win next week. You guys see the touchdowns, I see the 4th and 1 that we missed, the fumble recovery I should have got. So, I'll come in tomorrow and see what we need to do to get the W."
THIRD DOWN:DEFENSIVE PLAY
The Lions were thriving on defense the first four weeks of the season. They were generating turnovers (11), consistently rushing the passer and doing a pretty good job of tackling.
Unfortunately, they ran into a buzzsaw Sunday in the form of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns.
For the first time this season, Detroit's defense didn't generate a turnover. They sacked Newton three times, but a couple of those were late when Newton had a lead and didn't want to make a mistake. There were far more secure pockets for Newton in the game than pressured ones.
And Detroit's tackling wasn't up to snuff. Too many missed tackles led to extra yards and first downs and extra plays.
"Every chance you get you've got to kind of go for the ball," Lions rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "We were going for the ball a lot earlier, but we were missing tackles. So, you know, you kind of have to lock down and get back to your technique and really go get the tackle.
"You know, the biggest thing in the game is the ball, but at the same time you've got to do all the little things right. The biggest little thing is making tackles."
FOURTH DOWN:4TH AND 1
There are a number of plays after every game – win or lose – that people can point to as defining moments in the game. Sunday, there were a number of them, but Detroit's failed 4th and 1 attempt late in the third quarter down 27-10 highlighted many of the things that have ailed this offense of late.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 5 game vs. Carolina Panthers.
It was 4th and 1 at the Lions 49-yard line, and the play results in a massive push by the Carolina defense and a 4-yard loss by Zach Zenner.
Carolina missed a field goal on the subsequent possession, so it didn't hurt the Lions directly on the scoreboard, but in a game where they ran out of time and lost by three points, gaining that 4th and 1 and getting into Carolina territory ups the chance of coming away with at least three points.
Detroit was manhandled upfront for a second consecutive week, which is the more concerning aspect of the play. Detroit rushed for just 50 yards on 15 attempts (3.3 average).
"Yeah, we just didn't run the ball as well as we'd like," Caldwell said. "We did what we wanted to do, we always want to outpoint our opponents in that area (Carolina had 28 yards on 28 attempts) and I think we ran the ball better than our opposition did.
"But the third-and-ones, the fourth-and-ones, the third-and-one we threw it, and obviously the fourth-and-one we couldn't get an inch. Obviously, that was disappointing."