The Panthers Face an Opportunistic Lions Team

Sharon Thorsland
October 06, 2017 - 7:52 am

USA Today Images

The Panthers head to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

It's a matchup of two of the best defenses in the NFL – the teams are tied for 4th in the NFL in scoring defense, the Panthers are 4th in total defense, and the Lions lead the league with 11 takeaways. Both teams are 3-1 on the season - the Lions are coming off a 14-7 win over the Vikings, while the Panthers pulled off the upset of the Patriots in Foxborough. .

This is the first highly ranked defense the Panthers have faced since they played Buffalo in week two.

The Lions are fast and aggressive, led by their opportunistic secondary. Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin has forced two fumbles and has two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.

He teams with Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew, with Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson at cornerback. The group has combined for six of the team's takeaways. 

The Lions also boast a fierce pass rush, led by Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and second year player Anthony Zettel, they've combined for seven sacks. Inside it's 12-year veteran Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle. Anchoring the linebackers is veteran Paul Worrilow, but he's out with a knee injury so Steve Longa will start with Tahir Whitehead, he leads the team in tackles. Rookie Jarrad Davis is back in the middle after missing two games with a concussion. They'll face a Panther offense that seemed to find its rhythm last week against the Patriots, and and has plenty of weapons besides Cam Newton.

“Jonathan Stewart is a big guy, Christian McCaffrey is a physical runner,” says Quin. “The wide receivers are big like tight ends, Benjamin and Funchess, and they've got big tight ends. They're just a big, powerful football team.”

The Panthers will face their own challenge in the Lions offense, which hasn't been putting up big numbers but features one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Nine-year veteran Matthew Stafford became the NF L's highest paid player this off-season. And while he's putting up pedestrian numbers so far this season, throwing for just 887 yards and seven touchdowns, he's a Pro Bowler for a reason. “He's got a live arm, can make every throw on the field, and he's very smart,” says Panther corner back Captain Munnerlyn. “He's got a little Brett Farve in him, he can make every throw.”

Stafford's favorite receiver is Golden Tate, he has 24 catches and a touchdown. Tate teams with a pair of big play threats in Marvin Jones, Jr. and T.J. Jones, they both average over 16 yards a catch. And keep an eye out for former Tar Heel tight end Eric Ebron, he has 11 catches and a touchdown. 

The Lions running game has been inconsistent for years now, they've finished in the bottom five of the league the past three seasons. But they seem to be getting their groove on this season, led by third year back Ameer Abdullah. He picked up 94 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings last week. Abdullah teams with Theo Riddick and Zack Zenner. They've got their work cut out for them against the Panther defense that ranks 8th in the league allowing just 87 rushing yards per game.

These teams don't play each other very often, this is just the 8th meeting between them. The Panthers won the last one in 2014 and lead the all-time series 5-2. They're looking to add to that win total and also build on the success they found last week against the Patriots. “We know each week is different, each team is different,” says tight end Ed Dickson. “This is a hungry Detroit team, in their house. We've got to do the things we did last week, and even better.”

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