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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 11

If we're still trying to figure out how all the twists and turns and ups and downs and coaching decisions resulted in the Detroit Lions beating the Carolina Panthers, then what we learned is to remember these words from cornerback Darius Slay after the game:

"Anything can happen."

Anything can, and anything did.

What we learned more than anything is that no play is ever over until it's over, even when it looks hopeless, and no game is over until it's over. And even then – when it's over – the debate continues.

Among other things we learned is that fortunes and performance can flip in a hurry, Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers plays like he's forever young, and players know the situation the team is in, even if they don't talk about it all the time.

We start with never giving up on a play:

The chase: Darius Slay was the defensive hero of the game for the way he chased down Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore to save a touchdown.

It was Carolina's ball, third and 10 at its own six-yard line. The Lions are in good position to add to their 10-7 lead with a stop that could give them good field position from the ensuing punt.

How quickly the scenario flipped. There was no stop, and no good field position.

Cam Newton hit Moore near the left sideline, where Moore broke away from rookie cornerback Mike Ford's attempted tackle and cut to midfield -- on his way to what looked like a 94-yard catch and run for a go-ahead touchdown.

Slay had other ideas.

From the opposite side of the field at left cornerback, he began his pursuit. In full flight and at full speed he gradually gained on Moore and tackled him at the 12-yard line.

Slay saved a touchdown. And as it turned out, the Panthers came up empty when Graham Gano's field-goal attempt hit the left upright.

"That's a huge play," said head coach Matt Patricia. "That's a great effort play. I mean great hustle, great pursuit. That's really a fast guy that he's chasing. Fortunately, we got a faster guy for that moment."

The snatch: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay had eight catches for 113 yards. He scored what proved to be the winning touchdown with a 19-yard catch late in the fourth quarter.

A play he made on the Lions' first possession goes in the book as a 13-yard catch, but it really was a steal. On a third and seven, Golladay ripped the ball away from Panthers cornerback James Bradberry, who looked to be in position for an interception.

Three plays later, the Lions had their first touchdown – on Kerryon Johnson's eight-yard run. Golladay should get an assist for not giving up on the play.

Turn around: The Lions' offense was under fire in the previous two games for the sacks it gave up and the inability to run the ball. Center Graham Glasgow called the unit's performance "embarrassing" when the Vikings had 10 sacks and seven hits on quarterback Matthew Stafford. A week ago, the Bears had six sacks and eight hits.

The Panthers had only one sack and one hit.

Ageless: By now everyone should have learned that age doesn't matter when it comes to Julius Peppers.

He got the Panthers only sack, and he looked like a youngster rather than a 38-year-old player in the middle of his 17th season when he got around Lions right tackle Rick Wagner to drop Stafford.

Peppers has now sacked Stafford at least once in every season since 2010. There's probably more to come, whenever the Lions and Panthers meet again. Peppers shows no sign that retirement is imminent.

The situation: Players know where their team stands, even if they don't talk about it publicly, or dwell on it privately. Tackle Taylor Decker's comments after Sunday's game made it obvious that the players know they have little margin for error if they're going to make something of this season.

"Unfortunately, we had a string of not-so-great performances," Decker said. "We don't have much room for error, basically. Hopefully, we'll get things on track."

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