In typical fashion, the Panthers win over the Lions went down to the wire. The offensive explosion of the first half and continued momentum throughout the third quarter put Carolina up three scores to start the fourth quarter. The Lions didn't back, however, mounting two touchdown drives to bring the game within 3 points with three minutes left to play. Carolina's rushing attack had been frustrated throughout the second half by a mean Detroit front. Backed up on their own goal line, Carolina struggled to get a little breathing room and what appeared to be a first down catch by Devin Funchess was brought back on an offensive pass interference call.
Carolina has had difficulty salting games away and today looked as if there could be another opportunity for Detroit to make a final second stand. A big third-down conversion on a pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin put the game away for the Panthers.
This was a huge game for Carolina, and no one thought it would be easy. Carolina's offense clicked for the second consecutive weeks as Cam Newton connected on 26 of 33 passes for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey scored his first NFL touchdown on a nifty shovel pass from Newton. The Panthers Twin Towers, Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, both hauled in touchdowns. The big standout, however, was Ed Dickson who had a record-setting day. He became the first Panther to record two 50+ receptions in a single game and set the record for the most yards per reception by a tight end with 5 receptions for 175 yards (35 ypc).
Carolina's defense didn't play around through the first three quarters. The sacked Matthew Stafford six times and held the Lions to just 50 yards rushing. Julius Peppers feasted again, recording his 149th carrier sack and making big time tackles against the run. The defense started to show signs of fatigue on those final two scoring drives when they missed several tackles that allowed Detroit to stay within striking distance. Luke Kuechly even had an uncharacteristically off day, missing multiple tackles and getting lost in coverage that resulted in a 25 yard gain by Jared Abbrederis on 3rd and 2.
Carolina played a sloppy game to start, accumulating 60-yards of penalties in the first quarter. After cleaning up their play, the offense executed, the defense swarmed, and ultimately managed a big win on the road against a good team.
By Tony Dunn
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