Allen Park — Size matters, at least when it came to Sunday’s matchup between Lions cornerback Darius Slay and Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Despite giving up five inches and roughly 55 pounds to Benjamin, Slay held his own with the exception of a couple completions — both of which were pivotal in Sunday’s 27-24 loss at Ford Field.
The first came early in the third quarter when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a dime to Benjamin on a go route down the left sideline for a 31-yard touchdown, which pushed Carolina’s lead to 24-10 at the time.
Slay (6-foot, 190 pounds) was in good position to make a play but couldn’t quite outstretch Benjamin (6-5, 245) to get a hand on the ball.
Then after the Lions rallied to make it a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter and needed to make a stop on third-and-9, Benjamin took advantage of his size once again and “big-boyed” Slay to get to his spot over the middle for a 17-yard completion that effectively sealed Carolina’s win.
Benjamin, who Slay said wasn’t the toughest matchup he’s had so far this season, was targeted six times and finished with four catches for 58 yards and the one score.
“I was there on every play. It’s only just two plays you can count that he had on me and both were just critical,” Slay said Monday. “He made big-time plays at the big-time moment. That's what they gave him a lot of money for him to do and he made his plays at the right time.
“I think I did a real damn good job the whole game but those two plays and that's on me. I got to be better than that.”
Slay added he knew Newton was going to make plays with his arm but there were a couple big completions that had more to do with the defense, like the misalignment on a third-and-1 play that allowed Panthers tight end Ed Dickson to be left wide open in the secondary for a 57-yard completion.
Slay said he and the defense will work to correct their mistakes and, despite the loss, he’s encouraged at what the Lions can accomplish when the offense and defense play to their full potential in the same game.
“We can go far, man. We ain't have a complete game yet,” Slay said. “We're just not going fast enough as a team. We have our separate moments, our spark moments, but when we put it all together at once, we can be a very dominant team.”