Burning Questions: Patching together a lineup, wide receiver Kenny Golladay stepping up and surviving an onside kick in the Detroit Lions' 20-19 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field Sunday.
Question: Before debating the strategy of the Panthers trying a highly questionable two-point conversion, what did the Lions do to pull of what has to be considered a major upset?
Answer: For the Lions, it was grit and grind all day against a team that in reality had them outmanned. The Lions played tough and smart all the way. They didn't do anything to beat themselves, and when they had to have a play they got it.
And make no mistake about this – there's no way they wanted to go into the Thanksgiving Day game against the Bears with the focus on what would have been a four-game losing streak.
For the moment –- and that's all it is for a team with a 4-6 won-loss record – the Lions can feel good about themselves.
Q. Two-point try: Was going for two to win the game the right thing to do after the Panthers scored a touchdown with 1:07 left?
A. No. Not even debatable. It was a bad choice by Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. And if he was doing it because kicker Graham Gano was having problems, it was still wrong. Cam Newton's pass in the end zone was high and incomplete.
Zach Zenner falling on the onside kick clinched the win for the Lions.
Q. Football heroes: Who were they for the Lions?
A. Golladay stepped up with big catches, including the game-winner with just over five minutes left. Running back Kerryon Johnson gave the Lions a running threat all game, until he went out with what was reported to be a knee injury.
Defense and special teams were solid all day and sometimes spectacular.
And give quarterback Matthew Stafford full credit. He kept a patched up offense rolling from the opening possession to the game-winning touchdown. It was a masterful performance.
Q. First strike, Panthers: What did they do on the opening possession to go 90 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead?
A. They did whatever they wanted to. Newton hit five of six passes for 80 yards and a TD – a one-yard toss to tight end Greg Olsen on third and goal at the one. Nobody covered Olsen. He got wide open.
Q. Strategy: Any questions on what the Lions did defensively on that possession?
A. Yes. The Panthers had third and eight on the third play of the possession, and defensive end Ziggy Ansah wasn't in the game. Later in the possession, Ansah was in the game when the Panthers had second and eight at the Lions' 33.
My choice would have been to have Ansah in the game on a third-down pass rush situation.
Q. Strike back, Lions: They answered back with an eight-yard run by Johnson to make it 7-7. What stood out on that possession?
A. It was a grit and grind drive by the Lions—72 yards on 12 plays, and they used the running game effectively. Johnson had eight carries for 42 yards. On the touchdown, left tackle Taylor Decker helped clear the way with a block on a Panthers' defensive back. Johnson got to the end zone untouched.
Q. Key play: Was there one on the TD drive?
A. Yes. There was a big play by wide receiver Kenny Golladay on a third and seven at the Panthers' 34. Golladay ripped the ball away from Panthers cornerback James Bradberry along the left sideline and turned up field for a 13-yard gain and a first down.
It was a big-time play by Golladay, who has to pick up the slack in a depleted receiving corps.
Q. Fourth and punt: The Lions punted instead of going for it on fourth down and 10 at their 47 with seven seconds left in the first half. Right call?
A. No problem with that decision. There was a small chance something could have gone wrong that would have given the Panthers a chance to get a field goal or a touchdown. There was no chance with what the Lions did.
Plus, they were getting the second-half kickoff. It added up to punting.
Q. Chase, sack, post: Cornerback Darius Slay's chase and tackle, a sack by linebacker Jarrad Davis and a field-goal attempt that hit the left upright kept the Lions' lead at 13-7 in the third quarter. How big were those three plays, and which meant the most?
A. All were important, and each one was the most important at the time it was made.
First it was Slay, who caught Panthers rookie receiver DJ Moore from behind to tackle him at the 12-yard line. It was an 82-yard gain and looked like a touchdown until Slay made the tackle.
Then it was Davis sacking Newton on third down to force the Panthers to settle for what should have been an automatic field goal.
And then it was Gano clanking that automatic field goal off the left upright.
Q. Destiny: Do you believe in it – and were the Lions destined to win?
A. No. I believe in results. Make plays, and you get results.
That's what the Lions did. That's how they won.