A disastrous defensive outing left the Detroit Lions with no margin for error in their fight for an NFC wild-card playoff berth.
They need to defeat the Chicago Bears in their home finale on Sunday to stay in the race.
Detroit (7-8) had won six of its last seven before Carolina literally ran past the Lions on Saturday. The Panthers gashed their run defense for a franchise-record 320 yards and handed them a 37-23 road loss.
“We’re moving on,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We identified those things that happened and they’re behind us. Now it’s all about working forward for Chicago.”
Detroit remained a half-game behind Washington for the final wild-card spot, though it’s also tied with Seattle and Green Bay. The Lions will face the Packers on the road in the regular-season finale.
Patching up the holes in the defense will be paramount. Detroit also needs to reenergize its running game, which was virtually abandoned in Carolina. Quarterback Jared Goff led the Lions with 15 rushing yards.
“To me, this is our recalibrate week,” Campbell said. ” We’re going to recalibrate, man, because we were doing some good things. We found a pretty good spot in what we were doing and how we needed to do it and we got a little out of line. So, let’s do a little realignment, a little re-calibration and go back to work because we’re not far off. As bad as some of it was, honestly you’re not as bad as it appears to be.”
The first meeting with the Bears was a thriller. Detroit scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 31-30 victory.
Chicago (3-12) heads to Detroit with an eight-game losing streak, but after last week’s debacle, the Lions know better than to take any opponent lightly.
“You have to treat this no different than anybody else,” Campbell said. “This is the Buffalo Bills as far as we’re concerned, and it’s going to come down to the wire.”
Quarterback Justin Fields’ mobility tops the list of concerns for Detroit. Fields rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting. He also threw for two scores.
Fields and the entire offense struggled against the Bills in their latest defeat on Saturday. He was limited to 119 passing yards and 11 rushing yards in a 35-13 loss.
Now, the Bears face a team that has won three of its last four at home.
“They’re looking to rebound and right the ship and it’s important that we learn how to do that,” Chicago coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish games, learn how to execute at those moments. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Bears, who host Minnesota in their season finale, have gone winless since a 33-14 triumph over New England on Oct. 24. They’ve produced 20 points or fewer in the last four games.
“We want to finish these two games off strong,” Eberflus said. “We’ve got a lot of development to do, a lot of things to look at and a lot of players we want to evaluate.”
Bears wide receivers Chase Claypool (knee) and Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) didn’t practice on Wednesday. Center Frank Ragnow (foot) and safeties Kerby Joseph (back) and DeShon Elliott (shoulder) were among the Lions held out of Wednesday’s practice.
–Field Level Media