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O'HARA'S WEEK 11 CHECKLIST: Lions vs. Panthers

Wednesday's walkthrough was only the first step this week in what has been a change from the Detroit Lions' normal practice routine.

Despite snowfall that began about an hour before Thursday's practice, the Lions held their regular practice on the outdoor field instead of moving to the indoor practice field at their Allen Park headquarters as they prepared for Sunday's home game against the Carolina Panthers.

Members of the support staff used snow blowers and shovels to clear slushy snow from the yard lines and boundaries. While that was being done, practice continued with no discernible change from the regular routine in the period open to the media.

In fact, Patricia was dressed in his usual practice togs – shorts included – as he moved between position groups to give hands-on attention.

With the temperature slightly above freezing at 34 degrees, cold was not an issue for the players. And while it was unusual to forego the indoor facility and hold practice outdoors, it's not like Patricia moved practice outdoors for punishment. He just didn't move it indoors to account for the weather.

Regardless of the reasons, the Lions need a change – specifically a change in performance. They've lost three straight games to drop their won-loss record to 3-6, and they've struggled in every area.

It is not uncommon for coaches to change the routine even slightly with the hope of spurring a team out of its doldrums.

Patricia does not meet with the media on Thursday's, but he spoke Wednesday about his reason for having a walkthrough instead of a regular practice, and why he sometimes changes the days he has the team in pads.

"We'll have weeks like this week where a walkthrough is a better idea for the week for us, based on the schedule and what's coming up," Patricia said.

"The thing is, it's always fluid, and I can change it any time I feel is necessary."

Fluid, it was. And slightly frozen.

Series history: The Panthers have a 6-2 series lead and won the 2017 meeting, 27-24, at Ford Field.

2017 Panthers-Lions review: The Panthers went on a 24-point run to take command of the game after Zach Zenner's one-yard run early in the second quarter had given the Lions a 10-3 lead.

Cam Newton threw TD passes to Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin in the rally, and Graham Gano kicked a field goal. The Lions made it close with two TD catches by Darren Fells in the fourth quarter.

Lions & Patricia, familiarity: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera sees similarities between the Lions' defense and the Patriots' defense he game-planned against when Patricia was defensive coordinator.

That would be expected. But Rivera sees similarities in the offense, too.

"I do see some carryover," Rivera said this week. "When you watch it, you see his fingerprints on who they are as a defense. You see some of the stuff they did when he was in New England having all that success.

"And quite honestly, I think I see a little bit of it on their offensive side as well. Some of the things that they're doing, you see what they're trying to do with their passing game.

"You see them mixing in Theo Riddick as a slot receiver, like in the vein of some of the guys that they had in New England with their slot receivers."

Panthers to watch, young and old:

RB Christian McCaffrey -- Age 22, Year 2, 5-11/205: Small package, big-time results, just getting started with a bright future.

The Lions saw enough of McCaffrey in person last season to see he has special talent, and what they saw on video in last week's loss to the Steelers shows how he's taken his game to a higher level in his second season.

McCaffrey leads the Panthers in rushing yards (579) and receptions (54), and is second in receiving yards (439). He scored all three Panthers TDs against the Steelers – one rushing, two receiving – to give him eight TDs for the season.

As a rookie last year, he scored his first pro TD on a six-yard shovel pass in the Panthers' 27-24 win over the Lions.

Despite his relatively small size, McCaffrey is a dynamic athlete. The Panthers had no concerns about size when they drafted him eighth overall last year.

"We watched him in college," Rivera said this week. "We know that the dude carried the load when he was at Stanford.

"We like who he is. We like how he fits into the offensive scheme."

DE Julius Peppers -- Age 38, Year 17, 6-7/295: If it seems like Peppers has spent half his career chasing Matthew Stafford while pass-rushing his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's because he has.

Peppers had at least one sack against the Lions every season from 2010 through last season. He's had a total of 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, and he's gotten them while playing for the Bears (2010-13), Packers (2014-16) and Panthers (2017), the team he began his career with as a rookie drafted second overall in 2002.

Peppers has three sacks this season, putting him third on the all-time list with 157.5.

Rivera is managing Peppers' playing time – an average of 36.5 snaps in the last six games – to keep him fresh. When Peppers is on the field, he's a disruptive force. In addition to his three sacks he has five passes defensed.

"We're trying to make sure we're using him properly, not overusing him," Rivera said this week. "We're trying to put him in a position where he can be successful and go for it. The guy is a phenomenal athlete."

Prediction: It was a different practice week for both teams. The Lions had their walkthrough and snow day. The Panthers had to deal with rain. But the game's the thing, and the Panthers are the better team. Injury issues do not help the Lions.

Pick: Panthers 30, Lions 20.

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