CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Usually the rushing attack is a good foundation for the Carolina Panthers.
So, rediscovering that element for the offense is one of the main orders of business as the team faces a quick turnaround before Thursday night's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Head coach Ron Rivera said the team's 28 rushing yards in Sunday's victory at Detroit reflected a puzzling number. Most of the trouble came because of negative-yardage plays when defenders charged into the backfield to drop running backs.
With that, the offensive line will need to show improvement.
"We have young men who are more than capable of making those blocks," Rivera said Monday after studying the footage.
With a 4-1 record, the Panthers have the luxury of singling out certain areas in need of improvement. Rivera said despite winning the game 27-24 against the Lions, the lack of a better rushing attack isn't something that the Panthers can overcome all the time.
"To be successful, you've got to run the football," he said. "We were fortunate that we had some guys make plays for us."
Rivera said the Panthers became too one-dimensional because of the lack of the rushing attack. They were the beneficiaries, he said, of a big enough lead and that quarterback Cam Newton had another strong outing.
The Panthers were held to one field goal over the game's final 25 minutes.
"You can't kick field goals and expect to win," Rivera said. "If you're in the red zone, you've got to score touchdowns."
The sack attack for the Carolina defense is impressive in several regards, but it might be most notable because of the variety of players reaching the quarterback.
Even cornerback Captain Munnerlyn posted a sack against Detroit.
But it's the defensive front that's most responsible, with defensive end Julius Peppers now at 5.5 sacks for the season.
But the most impressive rusher might be defensive tackle Kawann Short, who notched two sacks of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"One thing we've done very well is we've been aggressive," head coach Ron Rivera said.
Short has 20 sacks since 2015, putting him tied for the second-most sacks among defensive tackles in that span.
Now the Panthers might be wondering why they held back tight end Ed Dickson the past few years.
He had his second clutch game, though this one at Detroit came with huge results. He caught five passes for 175 yards, eclipsing his total yardage from any of the past three seasons.
All this was made possible because of a Week 2 broken foot suffered by All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen.
"I'm just holding it down for him," Dickson said.
He might be doing more than that. Dickson's emergence as an offensive weapon has coincided with wide receiver Kevin Funchess becoming a bigger impact player in the offense as well.
"Ed showed that he's a more-than-capable player in this league," head coach Ron Rivera said.
NOTES: CB Daryl Worley returned after missing the New England game with what was described as a pectoral injury. He was hobbled by an ankle injury against Detroit, but nothing that has been described as serious. ... K Graham Gano missed a field goal for the first time this season when he was wide from 55 yards at Detroit. He's 12-for-13 this season on field goals. ... C Ryan Kalil was on the inactive list for the fourth game in a row. He has made progress, but with a Thursday night game this week that might be too soon for his return. ... DT Vernon Butler was inactive for the Detroit game. That took some observers off guard because he appeared to be solid in three games since missing the opener with an injury. Head coach Ron Rivera said Monday it was because it was a better fit to have an extra defensive end available rather than Butler.
REPORT CARD VS. LIONS
--PASSING OFFENSE: A - The Panthers moved the ball through the air, including a game-clinching third-down pass from QB Cam Newton to WR Kelvin Benjamin. It was another solid outing for WR Devin Funchess, who had an impressive homecoming to his home state. But the biggest plus came from TE Ed Dickson, who gained 175 yards on five catches for his first 100-yard receiving game as a pro. Newton threw for 335 yards (with no interceptions), with 237 yards through the air in the first half, which was only nine yards shy of his career best in an opening half.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D - The Panthers didn't produce much on the ground, with several rushing plays going for negative yards. All told, it was 28 rushing yards on 28 carries. But at least the threat of RB Jonathan Stewart probably counted for something and he did have a few carries when he gained yards after initial contact.
--PASS DEFENSE: B-plus - Much of the credit here goes to the pass rush that resulted in six sacks and numerous hurries. The Panthers gave up only 192 yards through the air, so that was a good sign. The fourth-quarter approach was a bit concerning as the Lions had the Panthers off balance and scored touchdowns on their last two possessions. Given that there were some new combinations in place in the secondary this had to be encouraging on several levels.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus - There were some cracks at the point of attack several times, but those were pretty much fixed by the second half. Even with the Lions appearing that they might have found something that was going to work on the ground, the Panthers seemed to provide solutions before too much damage was done.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus - K Graham Gano was 2-for-3 on field goals and otherwise it was a rather ordinary, not-much-happening game on special teams. The Panthers had to punt from their own end zone late in the game and that worked out despite heavy pressure (drawing a running-into-the-punter penalty that was declined because it wouldn't have been enough for a first down). There was a bit of a curious decision by rookie WR Curtis Samuel to take a knee after running for a few yards with a fourth-quarter kickoff, but making sure there wasn't a turnover might have been his wise thinking.
--COACHING: B-plus - The Panthers were in good shape on offense for most of the game and that could be in part to the play-calling that had numerous players involved on offense. The Panthers dialed up pressure on QB Matthew Stafford, which was necessary with what was a makeshift secondary at times. For a team that had been rarely penalized the past few weeks (and thus a good grade here on that topic), the Panthers were tortured by flags, especially in the first quarter. By game's end, they twice were called for having 12 players in the huddle as part of an 11-penalty game that cost the Panthers 100 yards.