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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 16

The Detroit Lions were eight yards away from taking one big step to strengthen their position as playoff contenders when reality intervened.

Just when it looked like they were rolling and had taken control of the game they were knocked off track and never got back, showing us that there are no sure things.

That's what we learned from Saturday's 37-23 road loss to the Carolina Panthers. A basic football play the Lions have performed routinely all season resulted in a misplay that sparked a turnaround in the game.

Following are takeaways on what we learned from Saturday's game, and the impact on the Lions' playoff hopes.

Turnaround: The teams had exchanged touchdown drives that made it 7-7, and the Lions were driving for another to take the lead.

After forcing the Panthers to punt, the Lions drove to Carolina's eight-yard line in a 12-play possession that looked like the Lions were in complete control.

In play No. 13, it all unraveled. Quarterback Jared Goff could not handle the snap from center Frank Ragnow, who said he was at fault on the botched snap.

"That's the first time it happened to us all year," Goff said after the game. "The first time in two years with Frank and me."

Instead of the Lions having a 10-7 lead with a chip-shot field goal or a 14-7 lead with a TD, the Panthers recovered and drove 91 yards to a TD and a 14-7 lead.

The rout was on, and the Panthers took full advantage of how the momentum had changed and was rolling their way.

They added a touchdown and a field goal before the end of the first half, then added another TD on their first possession of the third quarter to make their lead 31-7.

As we've learned before, and experienced again, when the momentum shifts it's difficult to turn it back.

The fade -- Lions: While the Panthers were rolling, the Lions were going almost nowhere. "Almost" is accurate because the Lions managed a net gain of one yard on the four possessions after the fumbled snap.

The Lions had an official net gain of 142 on their first two possessions. They followed that by going three and out on the next four possessions.

It's hard to imagine that an offense that has been as potent as the Lions have been for most of this season could be so punchless for such a long period.

Final thought: You learn something new in almost every game. With so much stake, what we learned in the loss to the Panthers was a costly lesson.

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