Blame Darrell Bevell and Matthew Stafford, if you must, for this Detroit Lions loss

Blame Darrell Bevell and Matthew Stafford, if you must, for this Detroit Lions loss
Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers the looming questions from the Detroit Lions’ 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:

Who deserves the most blame for this loss?

There are many candidates, but when you’re shut out, your offense deserves the brunt of the blame. Specifically, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterback Matthew Stafford should be singled out for their poorest game together and one of the worst offensive performances I’ve seen in a long time from the Lions. And don’t tell me D’Andre Swift and Kenny Golladay weren’t playing, because the Panthers had more significant injuries on their offense. Bevell’s plan showed no creativity or ability to adjust to Carolina’s defense, which ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. The Lions came out of halftime down 14-0 and went three-and-out. And Stafford was atrocious. He missed easy short passes, didn’t check into better plays and took five sacks, most of which were coverage sacks because he held the ball too long instead of opting for a safe check-down pass. If you want to talk about firings, these two need to be high on that list.

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Lions QB Matthew Stafford reacts during the second half of the Lions' 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford reacts during the second half of the Lions’ 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Doesn’t the defense deserve plenty of blame?

Yes and no, but mostly no. The old joke is that no matter who the opposing quarterback is, the Lions turn him into a Pro Bowler. Funny, huh? And that certainly feels accurate considering P.J. Walker was playing in the XFL this year — though he led that league in passing yards and touchdowns. But let’s not quibble about that. If you’re not in the NFL, you’re nothing. Right, Kurt Warner? The Panthers shouldn’t have been able to score 20 points without Christian McCaffrey and Teddy Bridgewater. But the defense held Carolina to 17 points for most of the game and came up with two huge interceptions in the end zone to thwart drives. The defense was surely outplayed by a mediocre offense, but they put forth enough effort and production to win this game. If you hold teams to 17 or even 20 points in the NFL, you should win.

[ Your turn to grade Detroit Lions performance vs. Carolina Panthers ]

Panthers defensive lineman Efe Obada sacks Lions QB Matthew Stafford during the second half of the Lions' 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Panthers defensive lineman Efe Obada sacks Lions QB Matthew Stafford during the second half of the Lions’ 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Is there any hope for this team this season?

I don’t want to give anyone false hope. But believe it or not, the playoffs aren’t out of reach. Even though the Lions fell to 4-6, they entered Sunday in 10th place in the NFC standings and their position shouldn’t change much by day’s end. Of the teams on the playoff bubble, Chicago probably has the easiest remaining schedule and the best shot to climb into a wild-card spot. But if the Lions can beat the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving and the Bears at Soldier Field in two weeks, they’ll at least give themselves a prayer at a playoff spot ahead of a grueling four-game finish against the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings. So I wouldn’t totally count the Lions out of the playoff race. But they can probably only afford to lose one of their final six games to have any hope of a wild-card spot.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions’ Bevell, Stafford deserve most blame for shutout loss

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