DETROIT – The Carolina Panthers clicked on all cylinders throughout the first half Sunday in the Motor City, proving at times to be virtually unstoppable.
In the second half, however, the Panthers too often played like they were stopped at a four-way intersection, waiting for someone to yield while homestanding Detroit closed in from all directions.
In the end, the Panthers’ impassioned first half and their relatively passive second half added up to a 49-35 loss to the Lions at Ford Field in the highest scoring game in Carolina history.
“The first half we came out explosive, the way football is supposed to be played,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “The second half, we came out almost like we were just trying to hold on, and you can’t do that against a team with the explosive offense they have and the talent they have on defense.
“We still have to learn how to play four quarters of football.”
The Lions (7-3) packed four quarters worth of offensive football into one half, scoring 35 points after halftime while piling up 282 yards and 17 first downs. They finished with 29 first downs, the most ever against Carolina.
Because the Panthers (2-8) were almost as dominant in the first half – 229 yards and 13 first downs to lead 27-14 – they still had a shot even after Detroit’s deluge.
Detroit, behind by as many as 17 points, claimed a 35-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Panthers answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Newton capped the march with a 6-yard touchdown run, after which he hit wide receiver Steve Smith for the two-point conversion to tie it.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, however, hooked up with wide receiver Calvin Johnson for a 30-yard gain to midfield on the first play of the next drive. A 16-yard completion to tight end Brandon Pettigrew and a 12-yard run by Kevin Smith – with a personal foul penalty tacked on – moved Detroit inside the 10. Stafford found Pettigrew on third-and-goal from the 7 in the middle of the end zone for his fifth touchdown pass and a 42-35 lead with 2:32 to play.
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