The 7-3 Detroit Lions outlasted the 2-8 Carolina Panthers 49-35 in a game featuring seven turnovers, and a whole lot of scoring.
Carolina looked poised to take the win early on, but once Detroit overcame their early turnovers, their offense was too much for the Carolina’s defense to stop, or for Cam Newton to out-shoot.
The Lions came in as heavy favorites, but after starting the season 5-0, they had lost 3 of their last 4 and quarterback Matt Stafford was playing with a broken right index finger. The finger seemed to affect him early, as he threw 2 interceptions in the first two series.
Actually the first three drives of the game all ended with interceptions, before Carolina drove down for an early field goal. In Detroit’s third drive, Keiland Williams fumbled the ball and then Newton was able to score quickly on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith to take the 10-0 lead.
But after the first period, the Lions were done with turnovers, while the Panthers were just getting started. Still, the Panthers went into halftime holding a 27-14 lead on the Lions, partly thanks to a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kealoha Pilares.
The Lions came storming back in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points on 2 touchdown passes from Matt Stafford – 16 yards to Nate Burleson, 17 yards to Tony Scheffler – and a 40yard TD run by Kevin Smith. Smith’s TD gave the Lions the lead 35-27 with 8:02 left in the game. But we weren’t done, not by a long shot.
The Panthers drove back, and Newton scored on a 6-yard TD run, and they completed the two point conversion with Newton throwing to Steve Smith, to tie the game at 35-35 with 4:59 to go.
Detroit got the ball back and pounded away with a mixture of Smith’s running and key passes by Staffor, to Calvin Johnson for 30 yards and to Brandon Pettigrew for 16. Finally, the Lions scored on a 7-yard TD pass from Stafford to Pettigrew to regain the lead 42-35 with 2:28 left on the clock.
Enough time for one more rally? Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards, as Newton threw 2 interceptions in the last 2:28 to seal the victory for the Lions. Newton finished the game 22 of 38 for 280 yards, with 1 TD and 4 interceptions. He also had 7 rushes for 37 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, as the Panthers amassed 137 yards rushing.
Stafford overcame his 2 interceptions on the first two series and was nearly perfect the rest of the game, finishing with 28 completions in 36 attempts for 335 yards and 5 TDs to 5 different receivers (none of whom was named Calvin Johnson). They also rediscovered their running game as Kevin Smith had 16 rushes for 140 yards and 2 TDs. Johnson wasn’t totally neglected, catching 5 balls for 89 yards.
The Lions offense looked to have recovered the firepower that they had early in the season, although the Carolina defense is ranked third worst in the NFL in points per game.
Next week, these teams head in completely different directions, as the Lions head into a Thanksgiving Day game against the undefeated Green Bay Packers, while the Panthers head to Indianapolis to take on the winless Colts.
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