Sat, 16 Jan 2021

O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Offense stalls in loss to Panthers

Detroit Lions
24 Nov 2020, 00:25 GMT+10

Mike OHara

"How do you get shut out in today's NFL?"

That was somebody's rhetorical question Sunday evening, long after the Detroit Lions had absorbed a 20-0 loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.

How, indeed?

It hasn't happened often to the Lions, and it shouldn't happen now when teams routinely go over the 30-point mark.

Before Sunday, the Lions hadn't been shut out since Week 6 of the 2009 season -- a 26-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 of the 2009 season. It was Mathew Stafford's rookie season, but he didn't participate in the loss.

Stafford was out with one of the injuries that limited him to 10 games in his rookie season. Daunte Culpepper started for the Lions and was relieved by Drew Stanton.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at the dilemma facing the Lions as they prepare for their Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans. Timing is important in sports, and the Lions have picked the wrong time to slow down.

There's a look at missed opportunities, how the Lions' offense has stalled at the wrong time - and it began before Sunday's game - along with takeaways on offense, defense and special teams from Sunday's game and what's trending.

We start with timing:

1. Thanksgiving Day: The Lions had a chance to present themselves to a national TV audience Thursday against the Houston Texans as a resilient team that had bounced back from adversity and a 3-5 record to be a contender in the NFC playoff race.

That didn't happen, and that didn't just happen Sunday. They're 1-3 since getting to .500 with a win over Atlanta. They lost to the Colts, Vikings and Panthers, and beat Washington.

The Colts are a legitimate AFC contender. The Vikings were 2-5 when they played the Lions. Washington was 2-7. And Carolina was 3-7 with a five-game losing streak and giving P.J. Walker his first NFL start at quarterback.

Bottom line: The schedule was set up for the Lions to get to 6-5 and make a run at a wild card spot in the NFC playoffs.

That didn't happen, and as ugly as Sunday's loss to Carolina was, it was just one of the steps the Lions stumbled on.

2. Offense: Sunday's shutout was the low point of the season, but the offense hasn't been as expected.

Since scoring a touchdown with 7:58 left in the third quarter to take a 24-3 lead over Washington, the Lions have been outscored 47-6 by Washington and Carolina combined.

In 11 possessions Sunday, the furthest the Lions ended one was at Carolina's 33 in the fourth quarter. From there, Matt Prater missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt.

The Lions crossed midfield on four other possessions that ended at Carolina's 48, 47, 45 and 46.

NOTEBOOK: Lions have to turn the page quickly to Houston FOUR DOWNS: Lions lose the battle upfront in Carolina O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: How much did injuries contribute to Lions' performance on offense?

3. In the trenches: Carolina won that battle, and it wasn't close.

The Lions had one sack and one hit on Walker. Carolina had five sacks on Stafford, all in the second half, and 11 quarterback hits.

4. Takeaways, offense:

There was no answer for a Panthers' defense that had given up 154 points in the last five games. That stats showed that - 40 yards rushing and 2.4 yards per carry; 178 yards passing for Stafford, 6.0 yards per attempt and five sacks allowed. The Lions played small ball. They had only two plays longer than 20 yards - a 35-yard pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson and a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. For the second straight game the Lions could not control the game on offense. They ran 55 plays in last week's win over Washington and 55 again vs. the Panthers. Part of the reason: They did not have a single first down rushing.

5. Takeaways, defense:

There actually were some good things despite the loss. Cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye and Desmond Trufant made interceptions in the end zone to kill scoring drives. Oruwariye's was particularly timely because it came in the first half when Carolina had a 7-0 lead. There wasn't much pressure to make Walker feel uncomfortable in his first NFL start. He was sacked once and hit once. Panthers receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore won their matchups. Both had seven catches -127 yards for Moore, 46 for Anderson.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

There really were no takeaways. Prater missed his only field-goal attempt, from 51 yards in the second half when the Lions trailed 17-0.

7. Trending:

Up: Interceptions in the end zone by Oruwariye and Trufant. Oruwariye's pick kept the score at 7-0 heading into the second half. Down: Offense. It's pointless to look for any other unit when the offense failed to score a point for the first time since 2009. Even: The defense gave up only one TD pass for the second straight game. In this era of quarterback domination, that's not common.

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