ALLEN PARK - The Lions 20-0 loss to the Panthers ranked very low on the creativity scale. At least as far as Lions defeats go. Forget a lively discussion about a soul-crushing loss on sports radio. Talk about snow tires right now might be more interesting.
The shutout leaves Detroit (4-6) at the bottom of the NFC North alongside Minnesota. The Lions also face a quick turnaround with a Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans.
The Lions could have used the excuse that they were undermanned Sunday. Receivers Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay and running back D’Andre Swift all missed the game with injuries. But so too were the Panthers. Carolina’s star running back Christian McCaffrey did not play. Back-up quarterback P.J. Walker was a late replacement for Teddy Bridgewater. Walker had never started an NFL game before.
“Obviously, some guys are out but, some guys gotta step up and play well in their spots,” said coach Matt Patricia.
But nobody did and the Lions never scored. Jamal Agnew started for Amendola. Agnew caught three passes for 10 yards but was also targeted three other times. Quintez Cephus played for Golladay and had a single catch for 9 yards.
The Panthers (4-7) have lost seven times this season and run defense has been an issue. Carolina ranks 28th in the NFL in run defense. Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson split rushing duties. The pair combined for 35 yards on 13 carries.
“It’s not fun to be part of a game where we don’t score any points and don’t even threaten it,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “But we’ve got to play better on offense to give ourselves a chance to win.”
And specifically, on third down. The Lions were three-for-12 in converting third downs. That statistic stands out because the Panthers have allowed opponents to convert more than 50 percent of third downs this season.
Stafford played with an injured thumb on his throwing hand. But he didn’t blame the injury for his poor play (18-33 for 178 yards, quarterback rating of 70). After the game, he was asked whether the team’s game plan was sufficient.
“Yeah, we didn’t execute,” Stafford said. “Kudos to them for playing well. And obviously, we didn’t play well enough.”
The shutout loss - the first for the Lions since Stafford’s rookie year in 2009 - also helps build the case that Patricia should not return for a fourth season. In post-game comments, Patricia would not address whether he thought the team may fire him.
“I’ve had a philosophy for a long time that I go to work every day to earn my job,” said Patricia. “That doesn’t matter if it’s coaching, doing engineering, I don’t care if I am in school. Look, I am just going to go to work and work hard. We all know that. We’re in the NFL.”