3 key Carolina Panthers storylines to monitor vs. the Lions in Week 16

(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold’s renaissance as Carolina Panthers QB1

Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a massive letdown overall. But the performance of Sam Darnold was one of the few bright spots to take from the contest.

The quarterback is enjoying something of a career renaissance since assuming command under center. Darnold was tasked with more responsibilities in Week 15 with no running attack, which is something that brought further improvements despite some suspect blocking from the offensive line.

More importantly, Darnold was turnover-free for the third consecutive game. This represents a remarkable turnaround considering all hope seemed lost in training camp after the Carolina Panthers drafted Matt Corral and made another daring trade, this time for Baker Mayfield.

Darnold still has some processing issues and there is a reluctance to gain yards on the ground. But his phenomenal touchdown throw to D.J. Moore is proof confidence is growing both for the player and the coaching staff.

The former USC star gets another chance to prove his worth this weekend versus a porous Detroit Lions secondary that’s conceding 265.1 yards per game in 2022. This includes a whopping 284 yards on average over their last three contests.

Much will depend on whether the protection holds up and if the running game can get back to the form of old, but this looks like a matchup where the signal-caller can continue thriving when one considers all elements of this equation.