NFL: Panthers-Lions preview
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2011
By Larry Lage
DETROIT ó From 5-0 to almost desperate.
The Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers both need to bounce back from their most lopsided losses of the season on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit needs it a little more.
The Lions (6-3) have lost three of four games, including two straight at home, making their margin for error smaller to make a long-awaited return to the playoffs.
ěWe have to find a way to win this game because itís huge for us,î said Detroit center Dominic Raiola, who will make his 150th career start. ěBut I donít want to start talking about playoffs yet.î
Lions coach Jim Schwartz doesnít either.
ěYou want to cue Jim Mora?î Schwartz asked.
ěWe got the Carolina Panthers this week,î Schwartz said. ěAnything that comes after Carolina is not even on our radar right now.î
When the Lions started 5-0, they looked like a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Now, theyíre in danger of falling back to the pack in the NFCís wild-card race and possibly being regarded as a team that flopped after a strong and surprising start.
Carolina (2-7) is simply hoping to close the season with more tangible signs of improvement and to avoid sealing a third straight .500-or-worse record despite having 12 players, including six starters, on injured reserve.
The Panthers have gotten better, already winning as many games as last year and losing five times by seven or fewer points, but moral victories didnít exist in any way after a 30-3 setback at home to Tennessee.
How close did first-year coach Ron Rivera think his team was to turning it around?
ěWell, until last Sunday I thought we were pretty close,î Rivera acknowledged.
Carolina, which lost by just a touchdown against Green Bay and by three points to New Orleans, seemed to be ready to get out of the conference basement with a 13-point win over Washington and a narrow loss to Minnesota.
ěThey took Green Bay to the wire, they took New Orleans to the wire,î Schwartz said. ěYou donít need to look very far past those games if you want to see their explosiveness, particularly on offense.î
But after the Panthersí bye week, they fell behind early to the Titans and couldnít recover.
The Lions had a similar experience. They routed Denver 48-3 on the road, had a week off and then got handed a 37-13 humbling defeat at Chicago.
Like Carolina last weekend, Detroit dug a hole it couldnít get out of and ended up getting routed.
Cam Newton, meanwhile, is taking his latest loss hard.
The rookie quarterback is coming off his first game without a touchdown and his second-lowest rating, a blip on what has been a sensational season for him ó at least statistically. He has thrown for at least 290 yards in four games, all losses, to match Peyton Manningís rookie record set in 1998, and has ran for seven scores, equaling Vince Youngís 2006 total for the most by a rookie since 1970.
Newton, though, is still stewing about the setback at home to the Titans.
ěItís not supposed to be water off a duckís back,î he said. ěMy mom used to say, ëIf you are hungry youíre going to eat.í … I want to win. And If I donít win, Iím going to pitch a fit.î
Also today, it’s Cincinnati at Baltimore, Arizona at San Francisco, Tampa Bay at Green Bay, San Diego at Chicago, Tennessee at Atlanta, Philadelphia at the New York Giants, Dallas at Washington, Oakland at Minnesota, Buffalo at Miami, and Jacksonville at Cleveland.
Monday night, Kansas City is at New England.
Week 11 began with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos rallying for a 17-13 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night.
Tebow’s 20-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left capped a 95-yard drive and lifted the Broncos over the stunned Jets.
Off this week are New Orleans (7-3), Houston (7-3), Pittsburgh (7-3) and Indianapolis (0-10).