ReFo: Lions @ Panthers, Week 2
One of the most popular picks to regress in 2014, the Panthers quieted there doubters with a strong defensive performance against a hot Lions team coming off a beat down of the Giants.
One week removed from a 35-point display in primetime, Detroit fell flat against a stingy Carolina defense, ending the afternoon with just seven points to show for their work. As has become the norm in recent seasons, mistakes plagued an otherwise talented club, as the Lions aided the Panthers’ strong defensive work by dropping numerous passes, fumbling, and even missing a field goal for good measure.
Which isn’t to say that the Panthers were perfect. What they did do was minimize the impact of the mistakes they made and forced Matthew Stafford and company to methodically move down the field, something they couldn’t execute consistently. The Panthers’ secondary, their biggest defensive weakness, held Detroit’s high flying passing attack to just one completion over 20 yards. This win puts Carolina at 2-0 as they head into a very rough stretch of schedule, while Detroit ends up in a four-way tie for the NFC North lead after crashing back down to earth.
Detroit Lions–Performances of Note
Nick Fairley, DT: +1.2
Breakdown: Much was made of Fairley taking snaps with the second team in practice during the preseason amid concerns of his physical condition. And while the camera crew found opportunities to show Fairley panting on the sideline, he was an effective player for the 32 snaps he made it on the field. Generating consistent push against the run, Fairly was disruptive as Carolina was never able to establish a consistent running attack.
Signature Play: With 8:12 to go in the final quarter, Fairley blew up a 2nd-and-goal play from the 1-yard line, shooting inside Byron Bell and stonewalling Mike Tolbert for a 4-yard loss.
Matthew Stafford, QB: -4.6 passing
Breakdown: Just when you think Stafford is going to put everything together and become a top-tier quarterback, he puts forth a performance like this. His receiving corps didn’t do him any favors with several drops, but all too often Stafford resorted to forcing throws to Calvin Johnson, a strategy that has routinely exhibited mixed results.
Signature Play: With 1:11 to go in the first half, Stafford fired into double coverage aiming for Johnson. Melvin White undercut the route perfectly only for another defender to deflect the pass before he had a chance to pick it off.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE: +0.2
Breakdown: Playing just a shade over half of the Lions’ 73 offensive snaps, Pettigrew is on pace for his lowest full-season snap count since his rookie season in 2009. He played more than both Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria, but fewer passing downs than Ebron. Detroit’s offense had a pass-to-run ratio of more than 3:1, and though this game was a bit extreme, it shouldn’t be too far off what to expect from the Lions. It will be interesting to see what Detroit plans to do with Pettigrew in the coming weeks/years, as the other two have either higher upside (Ebron) or a friendlier contract (Fauria), and especially at tight end, three’s a crowd.
Signature Stat: Dropped the only pass thrown his way.
Carolina Panthers–Performances of Note
Kelvin Benjamin, WR: -0.1
Breakdown: A final grade of -0.1 seems like a boring day, right? Well as it turns out, Benjamin was anything but. He frustratingly dropped three passes, but rewarded Cam Newton’s faith in him with a spectacular one-handed sideline grab against a shocked Rashean Mathis. His only other catch moved the chains, and several of his drops would have too, indicating an ability to get open. The potential is there.
Signature Play: Fourth quarter, 12:16 to go. One of the best catches of the weekend.
Greg Olsen, TE: +2.7
Breakdown: Many feared (rightly so) what the departure of Steve Smith would have on an already thin receiving corps, but it helps to have arguably the most underrated tight end in the league. Olsen led the team with six catches, picking up four first downs and drawing a flagrant defensive holding call on what likely would have been a touchdown.
Signature Play: On Carolina’s two-point conversion to Jerricho Cotchery on a shallow crossing pattern, Olsen ran his hitch perfectly to impede Darius Slay’s attempt at tracking Cotchery across the goal line, leading to an easy score.
Mario Addison, DE: +0.8
Breakdown: Without Greg Hardy in the lineup, the Panthers turned to Addison as part of a three-man rotation at end opposite Charles Johnson. Though some of it was in garbage time, Addison tallied four sacks as he worked over Detroit’s tackles.
Signature Stat: On the field for only three running plays compared to 27 passes.
PFF Game Ball
Luke Kuechly (+2.6) was an integral part of Carolina’s defensive dominance, performing well in coverage and against the run.