Feb. 26, 2019
Lions Look: Bold Or Foolhardy?
That is a question that will be asked about this game for the coming week.
Entering this match-up, each team were anxious to send a message about themselves. For the Detroit Lions, after playing three lackluster games that put the team on a three game skid, they wanted to prove to everyone they have not mailed in the 2018 season. After performances against Seattle, Minnesota, and Chicago that left many who follow the Lions wondering aloud if Detroit was intentionally losing, or tanking, to improve their draft standing in April, they wanted to come out and play well against an NFC playoff contender. For the Carolina Panthers, they found themselves in a precarious position. The Panthers were trailing the New Orleans Saints for the lead in the NFC South, and saw that difference increase after Carolina was shelled by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football and the Saints shredded the Cincinnati Bengals on the successive Sunday. The Panthers need the victory in Detroit to stay in prime position for a wild card while staying right behind the Saints in the NFC South in the event of an unforeseen swoon. Given the recent play of both teams, many deduced that the Panthers would bounce back after 10 days off and more to play for.
The Lions had other ideas, as they would rely on running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver Kenny Golladay to spearhead the offense while the defense would contain the multifaceted Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey. What would keep this game close would be Carolina quarterback Cam Newton throwing for 357 yards and 3 touchdowns, the final one to WR DJ Moore with a minute to go in regulation.
Then Panthers head coach Ron Rivera made a call that stunned practically everyone: he put his offense back on the field to attempt a two point conversion.
In his post-game press conference, Rivera defended his decision to go for 2, saying he wanted to go for the win on the road. He did admit that the two misses by his kicker Graham Gano (a FG attempt & PAT attempt) played a factor in his decision. Newton and the offense initially lined up to go for two, but then called a timeout. Instead of reversing course for bring out Gano, Newton was trotted out again. He went back to pass, his receivers were covered, the Lions pass rush was just breaking through. Newton fired a ball to Jarius Wright, but the pass missed the mark, the conversion attempt was no good. After the Lions fielded an onside kick, their offense ran out the clock and registered the 20-19 result as a victory. This loss drops Carolina to 6-4, while not greatly harming their playoff standing, but they are watching New Orleans begin to run away with the division.
As for the Lions, they improved to 4-6, still last in the NFC North and still on the outside of the conference playoff picture. Detroit's path to January football is still narrow, but it's not impossible. But they will need to keep winning to do so, and the schedule doesn't let up. This is the Lions annual short week for the Thanksgiving holiday, as they will host the Bears in the traditional game. Chicago leads the NFC North and is looking to sweep the Lions for the first time since 2009. For Lions head coach Matt Patricia, it will be intriguing to see how his Lions will respond to facing a team he has once faced already in season. And each team can use the win to improve their own standing.