The opening drive saw the Carolina Panthers feature the pass with three straight throws going for first downs at one point. A 10 play 90-yard drive was capped off with a 1-yard pass to Greg Olsen for the touchdown which put the Panthers up 7-0 early. The Lions once again blew coverage in the secondary multiple times during the drive.
In contrast to the Panthers opening drive, the Lions went with Kerryon Johnson in the ground game as their opening feature. In the middle of the drive, Kenny Golladay stole an interception from James Bradberry for a 3rd & 7 conversion and a couple of plays later Kerryon took a toss sweep into the end zone as an answer to the Carolina score. Johnson had six carries for 42 yards on the Lions first drive of the game.
The Lion defense stood tall on their second series of the afternoon. Devon Kennard‘s sixth sack of the year set up a punt for Carolina and Detroit was on offense once again in a 7-7 game after one quarter.
Detroit went backward on their first two plays of the second quarter, resulting in a punt. Sam Martin‘s kick was a good one that checked up inside the 10 and was eventually downed by Detroit at the two-yard line setting up Carolina deep inside their own territory.
The Panthers were able to manage one first down before being stopped on a third and two via the second incomplete target of former Michigan Wolverine, Devin Funchess in the half. Matthew Stafford and the Lions would go backward one the ensuing possession, keeping the score an even 7-7 about halfway through the second quarter.
The Lions were able to make it into Prater range shortly before the halftime break. Matt Prater‘s 54-yard field goal was right down the middle and put Detroit up 10-7 with 37 seconds left in the half. Shortly after the field goal, Cam Newton took a shot downfield and Tracy Walker snatched his first career interception out of the hands of Carolina receiver Curtis Samuel giving Detroit another chance to score before the half. Unfortunately, nothing came of the turnover, however, Detroit would take a 10-7 advantage into the halftime locker room.
After being the Lions best player in the first half with 64 yards and touchdown, Kerryon Johnson started the second half with a 24-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. Detroit managed to reach Carolina territory but nothing came of it. Another great punt by Sam Martin pinned the Panthers at their own five for their first drive of the second half.
Detroit appeared to have Carolina stopped for a three and out but once again the Lions were burned by the big play. Panthers rookie DJ Moore broke off an 82-yard catch and run that set Carolina up in the red zone for the first time since the games opening drive. A sack by Jarrad Davis led to a Graham Gano field goal try that went off the upright for his first miss of the season, keeping the score 10-7 in favor of Detroit. Those goalposts have been some of the Detroit Lions best defenders all season long.
Bruce Ellington had a couple of nice catches on the next Lions drive which resulted in another Matt Prater field goal. This one was from 32-yards and put the Lions up 13-7 with about three minutes to go in quarter three. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton left the game with a left leg injury late in the third quarter and Detroit took a 13-7 lead and possession of the ball into the fourth quarter. Kerryon Johnson also left the game in the third quarter and would not return.
The Lions were unable to get any points on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. Sam Martin pinned Carolina inside their own 10 for the third time in the game and Cam Newton returned to the field with the Panther offense early in the fourth. Cam Newton led a 92-yard drive and completed a touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel which tied the score at 13 all. Luckily for Detroit, Graham Gano’s extra point which would’ve put the Panthers up by one went wide left keeping the game in a stalemate with about nine minutes to go.
Matthew Stafford needed to answer the score by Cam Newton. He had no Kerryon Johnson available in the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter Stafford showed up this week and connected with Kenny Golladay on a 36-yard pass that put Detroit in scoring range with six minutes to go in the game. That was followed up by another beautiful pass and catch to Kenny Golladay for a touchdown that put the Lions up 20-13 with 5:13 to go.
The Lions defense impressed for most of the day and forced a three and out following the Golladay touchdown, giving Matt Stafford and the offense a chance to put the game away. The Lions went three and out so Cam Newton and the Panther offense got the ball back with three minutes to go and 75-yards away from a tie ballgame. Cam Newton connected with DJ Moore on an 8-yard touchdown pass with a minute and seven seconds to go.
Carolina elected to go for two points and the lead following their touchdown. Newton had all day to throw but the pass sailed over the head of Jarius Wright and the Detroit Lions escaped with an exciting 20-19 victory breaking their three game losing streak.
Carolina came into this game averaging the third most rushing yards per game in the NFL. With Christian McCaffrey coming off one of his best games, the Lions were able to slow down the run and played particularly well defensively.
Another bonus for Detroit is that Bruce Ellington proved to be a capable receiver and showed off some decent skills after the catch. Also, Kenny Golladay is a beast.