What are the Carolina Panthers players and coaches talking about ahead of Saturday's Week 15 matchup against the Detroit Lions at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte? Let's find out:
1. The Panthers were dominated upfront on both sides of the football in a 24-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. Carolina rushed for just 21 yards with no rushing touchdowns and Pittsburgh was able to convert 12-of-16 third-down attempts.
Carolina interim head coach Steve Wilks said his team will put the pads back on this week at practice as they try to get back to their physical mentality. Last week was the first time since Wilks took over that Carolina didn't practice at least one day in pads.
"This game is behind us," Wilks said of the Steelers game. "Our focus right now is on the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Lions only."
2. Sam Darnold was 14-of-23 passing for 225 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions (108.1 rating) against Pittsburgh, and Wilks said that's earned Darnold the start at QB this week against the Lions. Darnold is 2-1 as a starter this season and hasn't thrown an interception. One thing to note: Wilks has encouraged Darnold to use his legs more this week. The Lions have struggled at times this season defending the quarterback run.
3. The 21 rushing yards for the Panthers vs. Pittsburgh were their fewest in a game since 2012 against Tampa Bay (10). Carolina has averaged 40.3 rushing yards in three losses since Week 9, while averaging 213.3 in the three wins. Safe to say the key for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and the Lions' defense will be containing the Panthers run game. Carolina ranks 30th in total offense and 30th in passing but are 17th running the ball (117.5).
4. Wilkes was very complimentary Tuesday of the play of Lions quarterback Jared Goff and the Lions' offense in general. He talked about all the weapons at the skill positions and how Goff has done a good job orchestrating the fourth ranked offense in the NFL. But Wilkes said it all starts upfront for the Lions. He said winning the battle upfront will be the biggest challenge for his defense.
5. There's a chance Saturday's game sets a record for the coldest game at Bank of America Stadium, as cold air settles into about two thirds of the country this weekend. The forecast calls for temps in the low 30s. The record low at kickoff previously was 30 degrees. Wilkes said his team played in a cold environment in Baltimore recently and weather will not be an issue.
6. Darnold said Tuesday it was fun watching the Lions' defense on film when he started preparing for Saturday's game because of the scheme Glenn runs. He called Detroit's defense 'super aggressive.' He said they'll have their hands full, but the offense will be up for the challenge.