Lions steamrolled 37-23 by lowly Panthers, see playoff hopes flicker

CHARLOTTE — A few plays after Chuba Hubbard broke a 33-yard run late in Saturday’s second quarter, the Carolina Panthers’ sixth run of 20-plus yards in the first half, the T.I. song, “Whatever you like,” came blaring over the sound system at Bank of America Stadium.

The song and its chorus — “You can have whatever you like” — was a fitting description for what the Panthers did to the Detroit Lions on Saturday, steamrolling their way to a season-high 320 yards rushing and dealing a blow to the Lions’ playoff hope with a commanding 37-23 victory.

The Lions had won three straight games and six of seven to claw into postseason contention after a 1-6 start.

They still have about a 22% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, but likely need to win their final two games against the Chicago Bears next Sunday and Green Bay Packers on Jan. 8, and will need help from other teams.

The Washington Commanders and New York Giants hold the final two wild-card spots in the NFC, and the Seattle Seahawks (7-8) remain ahead of the Lions in the standings based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

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The Lions (7-8) had played like one of the best teams in the NFL since early November, beating playoff contenders each of the past three weeks, but were listless from the start Saturday.

Hubbard ran for 30 yards on the first play from scrimmage and had a 35-yard gain after a false start on the next play.

Raheem Blackshear capped Carolina’s five-play, 78-yard opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, and Carolina scored on four of its next five possessions to build a 31-7 lead in the third quarter.

Playing in 20-degree weather with wind gusts that made temperatures feel like single digits, the Lions struggled to disengage from blocks and missed tackles on defense, and had none of the turnover luck they’d enjoyed the previous seven weeks.

Jared Goff led an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown drive on the Lions’ opening possession, completing third-down passes to DJ Chark and Amon-Ra St. Brown, and later was in position to give the Lions an early lead. But he lost a fumble on the second play of the second quarter off the snap from Frank Ragnow.

The turnover was Goff’s first since a Week 9 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The Panthers recovered, started the ensuing possession at their own 9-yard line, and went 91 yards in eight plays for a score. D’Onta Foreman had a 38-yard run on the second play of the drive, and Sam Darnold scored on an option keeper.

The Lions went three-and-out on their next four possessions, while the Panthers continued to run at will.

Foreman capped Carolina’s second 90-plus-yard drive of the half, this one an 11-play, 92-yard march, with a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:08 left in the second quarter, and Hubbard had a 33-yard run a minute later to set up a Panthers field goal for a 24-7 advantage at halftime.

Both Hubbard and Foreman set career-highs in rushing: Hubbard finished with 125 yards on 12 carries, Foreman had 165 yards on 21 carries and the Panthers averaged 8.8 yards per play and 7.4 yards per rush. The Lions had allowed 167 yards rushing total in their previous three games.

The Panthers finished with seven runs of 20 or more yards — 21, 21, 28, 30, 33, 34 and 38 yards — and the Lions gave up their most rushing yards since allowing 328 yards in a 1998 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Goff finished 25 of 42 passing for 355 yards with three touchdowns, all to backup tight end Shane Zylstra.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY