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Week 5 opponent: What the Panthers are saying

Every week during the regular season, the opposing head coach and sometimes a player speak to the Detroit media via conference call. This week it was only Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on the conference call.

So, what did Rivera have to say about Sunday's matchup?

1. The Panthers consider rookie Christian McCaffrey a slot receiver just as much they do a running back. Rivera compared him to Detroit's Theo Riddick in that regard. Rivera said McCaffrey has terrific hands and a great knowledge of how to attack defenses in the passing game. He leads the team with 22 receptions after four games. Rivera said McCaffrey's versatility is one of his biggest strengths.

View photos of the starters for the Carolina Panthers.

2. If there's one thing Rivera says jumps out about the Lions' defense when watching them on tape it's that they play hard.

"They run to the ball," he said. "They surround the ball. I think that's a hallmark as to what they're doing."

3. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is running less than he has in year's past. He's averaging only 5.5 rushes per game through the first quarter of the season. He's averaged 114 carries per season over his first six years in the league. His pace of around 88 this season is based on a philosophical change to the offense, Rivera said. They want to get the ball out of Newton's hands quicker in an effort to expose him to less hits.

4. Newton missed most of the offseason and training camp due to a shoulder injury, and Rivera blamed some of Newton's early struggles on rust and a lack of timing. Newton was spectacular in last week's win over the Patriots, completing 22-of-29 passes for 316 yards with three touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed for a touchdown. Rivera noted that last week was the first time all season Newton practiced for an entire week leading up to a game.

5. When asked about last week's win at New England, Rivera said it can only be a springboard for the rest of their season if they build on it and win this week. "This league is a what have you done for me lately league," he said.

6. Rivera liked what he saw on tape from "big and physical" Lions tight end Darren Fells. When Fells gets his hands on defenders, he clamps onto them pretty good, according to Rivera. But he also warned that his defense can't fall asleep on Fells, because as last week's tape from the Vikings game showed, he can also catch the football and make plays in the passing game.

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