Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via conference call. This week it was Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. I also scanned the Carolina area media websites and the Panthers website, to see what else the Panthers players and coaches are saying about this week's matchup with the Lions.
Here's what they had to say:
1. The Pittsburgh Steelers racked up 45 points against Carolina's defense in a 52-21 victory last Thursday – tied for the third most ever against a Panthers' defense. The most credited to a Carolina defense, according the Panthers' website, was 49 points in 2011 against Detroit when Matthew Stafford threw five touchdown passes to lead the Lions to a 49-35 victory.
"We need consistency in all areas," Carolina defensive coordinator Eric Washington said this week. "Calls. Leverage. Gap responsibility. Things we have to do in terms of our assignment. We did not get that done. But that was then.
"We're going to utilize what we learned from a tough situation (last week) and we're going to put that to work as we get ready for Detroit."
2. When watching Damon Harrison, Rivera said the thing that's so impressive about Detroit's new defensive tackle is his ability to hold the point and push the pocket. Carolina comes into this game third in the NFL in rushing offense. They know they have to account for Harrison Sunday if they're going to keep up that success.
3. Rivera said a lot of Detroit's issues protecting Stafford the last couple weeks have been a result of them being behind.
"When you watch the games they haven't been behind, they've played pretty doggone well protecting the quarterback," he said.
To Rivera, Detroit's issues upfront have been more about situation than talent.
4. Carolina defensive tackle Kawann Short says it benefits their defense and game plan this week having played against Detroit and Stafford last season, beating the Lions 27-24 at Ford Field. Short called Stafford "dangerous," and the Panthers are focused this week on stopping him. The big focus for Short and the Panthers' defense is getting Stafford off of his spot Sunday, and capitalizing on any mistakes.
5. Rivera does see some carryover from the New England defense he faced last year when Carolina played New England and Patricia was the Patriots defensive coordinator. It's similar to the defense he's watched on tape of Detroit preparing for this matchup. In Detroit, he sees a team still learning a new system, and there are things they're still "growing into."
6. Former Western Michigan University Bronco, Lansing native and current Panthers starting right tackle Taylor Moton is excited to make his return to Michigan this week. Moton didn't play in Carolina's game in Detroit last year as a reserve. This year, he starts for the Panthers.
"I'll start off by saying every game I get to pad up with the Panthers is special for me," Moton told Panthers.com. "But, this will be a neat experience. I'll have a lot of family and friends there, which will be exciting."
Don't be surprised to see a large contingent of fans from Lansing wearing Moton jerseys at Ford Field.
7. It wasn't until the end of last year that Rivera said they really learned how to use Christian McCaffrey in their offense. He's been a true dual threat for the Carolina offense ever since. He became just the seventh player in NFL history to have both 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his first 25 games.
8. "I think they're very dangerous," Rivera said of this Detroit team that's lost three-straight and returning home after playing their last two on the road.