CHARLOTTE — If anyone delivers better than the Panthers tonight, it'll only be the guy in the red suit.
Unlike that guy, the Panthers were content to do it on the ground on Christmas Eve.
The Panthers brought the presents and gave themselves a chance at a future that matters heading into the final weeks of the season.
By beating the Lions 37-23 Saturday, the Panthers improved to 6-9, and gave themselves a shot to play for the NFC South lead next week when they go to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are 6-8 and play the Cardinals on the road Sunday night, but the Panthers have some early tiebreaker advantages based on their 3-1 division record and a head-to-head win over the Bucs earlier this year.
But that can wait. Saturday, they did what they needed to do. And they did it in a traditional way.
The Panthers ran for a franchise-record 320 yards, en route to a franchise-record 570 total net yards.
The previous records were 299 rushing yards and 548 total yards.
It was also the Panthers' fourth home win in five games at Bank of America Stadium under interim coach Steve Wilks and their first home win in December since 2017.
It's hard to call it a Christmas miracle, because that would be a cliché, and also because they've done this before — even if not to the same degree.
The Panthers have made a personality out of running the ball under Wilks, and bounced back nicely from a 21-yard rushing output against the Steelers last week (the fifth-fewest in franchise history).
Early on, the holes were huge, the result of an offensive line that was bullied last week pushing back.
And with that, the Panthers continued this most improbable of seasons and gave themselves (at least) two more games that have meaning.
— The way the Panthers ran the ball stirred up memories of the Christmas Eve game in Atlanta in 2006 (the Wildcat game).
But even that day, the Panthers only ran for 183 yards for the game on 52 attempts.
The difference in that game was they couldn't really throw much that day. Jake Delhomme was injured, and Chris Weinke could barely lift his arm over his head. (Weinke threw for 32 yards 4-of-7 passing, with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeff King).
The formula the Panthers are using right now might not be the most imaginative, but it's working, and it's carrying them to a real shot at the playoffs after a 1-4 start.
— The Lions had one of the league's top offenses, entering the game ranked fourth in the league in total yards and fifth in scoring. And when they drove for a touchdown on their opening drive, it looked like they'd continue.
But quarterback Jared Goff fumbled in the red zone on their next attempt (recovered by Yetur Gross-Matos), and things weren't the same.
The Panthers defense followed that turnover by holding the Lions to three-and-outs on their next four possessions.
That was the response Wilks was looking for on that side of the ball after the Panthers allowed the Steelers to convert a ridiculous 12-of-16 third downs a week ago. The Lions went 4-of-12 on third down.
— The Panthers were holding their breath in the fourth quarter when cornerback Jaycee Horn was carted to the locker room with a wrist injury.
He was announced as questionable to return.
View the best in-game photos from Carolina's Week 16 game against the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve.