I felt that the Panthers were a mirror image of the Vikings with solid defense up front and a decent running game, but you have to be able to put points on the board against this year's Green Bay Packers.
There's pressure being put on offensive coordinators to find ways of putting enough points on the scoreboard to keep the ball out of Brett Favre's hand. The Panthers did a great job of running the football on one series in the third quarter when kicker Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard field goal.
The Panthers marched 61 yards on 14 plays using seven minutes, 41 seconds, but unfortunately they were behind on the scoreboard and it worked to the advantage of the Packers. Had the Panthers found that running game earlier, it may have made a difference, but you know that Detroit with Kevin Jones and, for sure, Dallas with Marion "The Barbarian" Barber most certainly will.
With that being said, the Lions will try to spread the field with wide receivers Sean McDonald, Roy Williams, Mike Furrey and their talented number-one draft pick Calvin Johnson. I'm a little worried because the pressure will be put on the backup corners Jarrett Bush, Tramon Williams or maybe Frank Walker to help corral the Lions receivers in their spread set. They will be put in man-to-man situations should the Packers need to apply more pressure on quarterback Jon Kitna, and one of these three will need to play at a level of starting corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson.
Especially this week, there can't be a dropoff in coverage skills with this talented group of receivers. Cornerback Will Blackmon is starting to run in practice and will be starting drills soon, so hopefully he will be available as we get closer to the playoffs.
We have been waiting all year for this team to play well in all three phases of the game, and against the Panthers they almost did. The defense played its usual bend-but-don't-break style of play; special teams came up with special plays; and the offense played steady for three quarters.
To erase any doubt late in the game the offense has got to move the ball when it gets turnovers on the plus side of the 50. Had Mason Crosby made that field goal, or maybe if the Packers could have gotten a touchdown, the Panthers would not have started to run the football and the game would have been over.
It's the killer instinct that the Packers will need in order to win at Ford Field, and I'm confident they will have it.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.