4. Carolina’s P.J. Walker got a huge boost from his teammates
Making his first career start and missing an All-Pro security blanket in Christian McCaffrey, Walker was going to need his teammates to step up big team to have any shot in this one. The Panthers answered the call, rallied around their inexperienced quarterback, and rose to the challenge to put him in a position to succeed.
The Panther defense gifted Walker with a shutout performance, sacking Stafford those five times and holding the Lions to just 40 yards rushing. Walker’s offensive line kept him upright and comfortable for the entire day; even on Detroit’s single official ‘sack’, Walker went untouched and scurried to the sidelines for a loss of no yardage.
Even Carolina’s run game, greatly depleted in the absence of McCaffrey, picked up a workable if unspectacular 116 yards, breaking all kinds of tackles and picking up positive yards on at least a half dozen plays that looked to be clogged up in the backfield.
5. Matthew Stafford’s teammates let him down immensely
With a shorthanded offense and an injured thumb hindering Stafford’s throwing ability (he was clearly in pain just taking a pregame snap from under center), the Lions were in the same boat as Carolina. How was it that Panthers were able to rise to the occasion at every other position, while Detroit fell completely flat?
A list of the miscues:
- Frank Ragnow goes bowling on a snap, rolling it on the ground to the left on a shotgun, causing a Lions turnover.
- Marvin Jones lines up out of position on the double-pass trick play, taking a 51-yard touchdown off the board with an illegal formation penalty and wiping out the offense’s only exciting play of the afternoon.
- Taylor Decker and Kerryon Johnson get confused on blocking duties, leading to a bone-crushing sack sandwiched between two defenders.
- Poor reads on run plays by Kerryon and Adrian Peterson, failing to capitalize on the few times when the O-line had opened up a big hole.
- Continuing to live up to their “highest dropped pass rate” in the league, Adrian Peterson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jamal Agnew all dropped catchable passes.
- Missed tackles all around from just about everyone playing defense.
- Another missed field goal well within Matt Prater’s range.
The untested P.J. Walker had plenty of mistakes that his teammates made up for and then some. The injured Stafford needed his guys on Sunday, and to a man they failed the mission.