CHARLOTTE — If anyone delivers better than the Panthers tonight, it’ll only be the guy in the red suit.
Unlike that guy, the Panthers were content to do it on the ground on Christmas Eve.
The Panthers brought the presents and gave themselves a chance at a future that matters heading into the final weeks of the season.
By beating the Lions 37-23 Saturday, the Panthers improved to 6-9, and gave themselves a shot to play for the NFC South lead next week when they go to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are 6-8 and play the Cardinals on the road Sunday night, but the Panthers have some early tiebreaker advantages based on their 3-1 division record and a head-to-head win over the Bucs earlier this year.
But that can wait. Saturday, they did what they needed to do. And they did it in a traditional way.
The Panthers ran for a franchise-record 320 yards, en route to a franchise-record 570 total net yards.
The previous records were 299 rushing yards and 548 total yards.
It was also the Panthers’ fourth home win in five games at Bank of America Stadium under interim coach Steve Wilks and their first home win in December since 2017.
It’s hard to call it a Christmas miracle, because that would be a cliché, and also because they’ve done this before — even if not to the same degree.
The Panthers have made a personality out of running the ball under Wilks, and bounced back nicely from a 21-yard rushing output against the Steelers last week (the fifth-fewest in franchise history).
Early on, the holes were huge, the result of an offensive line that was bullied last week pushing back.
And with that, the Panthers continued this most improbable of seasons and gave themselves (at least) two more games that have meaning.