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Get to Know: Detroit Lions

Posted Oct 3, 2017

After knocking off the reigning Super Bowl champions, Carolina hits the road for a matchup with the 3-1 Detroit Lions.

Carolina’s offense came alive in Week 4 and outlasted the reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots. With the win, the Panthers improved to 3-1 and now sit atop the NFC South alongside the Falcons. It was an important victory, but Carolina is hoping to take away more than just another win from their trip to Foxborough.

“You can build off this kind of momentum,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “You got to take it and use it. You can’t waste it. We have a real tough opponent coming up next week in Detroit, so we need to be ready for them, but you can use this as a springboard.” 

Turnover turnaround

Last season, the Lions totaled 14 turnovers – tied for third worst in the league. This season, they rank at the top with 11, tied with Baltimore for the league lead.

“I think our guys have worked at it,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think we do have guys that are closing in on the ball a lot faster. Guys are in better position when balls are out loose. We have a lot of guys hustling to the ball, so the law of averages tells us we’re going to have a really good chance to get our hand in it.” 

Veteran safety Glover Quin is one of the forces behind the Lions’ turnover turnaround. The Pro Bowl safety already has two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. Only Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has more interceptions than Quin since the start of the 2013 season. 

Running game

In recent years, the Lions haven’t been known for their stout running game. In fact, Detroit has gone 55 games without a 100-yard rusher – the last time being Thanksgiving of 2013. Ameer Abdullah was six yards shy Sunday of breaking that regrettable record, but he rolled his ankle in fourth quarter and was forced to watch the remainder of the game from the sidelines. 

"Ameer had the pick and slide, finding seams, breaking tackles in the backfield and making runs," Caldwell said. "We know the guy can do some things when he's got the ball for enough time, so we are glad to see him perform well." 

Trouble on third down

Despite improving to 3-1 against the Vikings over the weekend, Detroit moved the chains on just 23 percent (3-of-13) of third downs. It was the third lowest average in the league in Week 3, yet not far off from the Lions’ 36 percent conversion rate on the season.

Third-and-long situations are Detroit’s Achilles heal, often because roughly only 40 percent of their first-down plays this season have resulted in at least four yards. The Lions are averaging 3.96 yards on first down this season, lowest in the league alongside the Colts.

The highest paid player in the NFL

Matthew Stafford became the highest paid quarterback in the league this offseason, signing a five-year extension worth $135 million. Has he played like the highest paid player in the NFL through four games?

Yes and no.

Stafford’s numbers are middle of the road this season. The quarterback has only thrown for 887 yards, 15th best in the NFL, which is just five more yards than Cam Newton. He’s on track for his lowest total in a single season, yet his Lions are 3-1 and tied at the top of the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers. Stafford’s performance so far this season hasn’t wowed anyone, but he’s getting the job done.