Recap: Lions hang on in crunch time, defeat Panthers, 20-19

By Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News
The Lions' Tracy Walker rips away a pass intended for the Panthers' Curtis Amuel for the interception late in the second quarter.

Game summary

The Lions were without Marvin Jones Jr. and lost rookie back Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury in the third quarter, but still hung on to beat the Panthers at home, 20-19.

Kenny Golladay came through for Detroit's weathered offense, hauling in 8 catches for 113 yards and the winning touchdown with 5:13 left in the game. Before exiting the game, Johnson rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. 

Final leaders


DET - Matthew Stafford: 23/37, 220 yds., TD

CAR - Cam Newton: 25/37, 357 yds., 3 TDs, INT


DET - Kerryon Johnson: 15 atts., 87 yds., TD

CAR - Christian McCaffrey: 13 atts., 53 yds.


DET - Kenny Golladay: 8 recs., 113 yds., TD

CAR - DJ Moore: 7 recs., 157 yds., TD

Lions recover onside kick, kneel to victory

Carolina lines up for an onside kick.

Timeout #1 Detroit (1:07 4th)

Graham Gano's kick is recovered by the Lions' Zach Zenner.

Stafford takes two knees and the Lions will escape with a 1-point win.

Lions 20, Panthers 19 (FINAL)

Carolina scores touchdown, misses two-point conversion

Carolina takes over at the 25.

Cam Newton gets it in the shotgun, loads, and fires to Christian McCaffrey, who's wide open down the right sideline, for a 34-yard gain.

Newton misfires on a pass to McCaffrey on the next play. On second down from the Detroit 41, Newton throws it complete to Curtis Samuel at the 29-yard-line for a 12-yard pickup.

Two-minute warning

Devon Kennard flies into the backfield on first down and forces Newton to throw it out-of-bounds. Jarius Wright catches a pass on second down and gets to the 8-yard-line after the catch. Carolina taking its time with the clock winding down.

DJ Moore gets away from Darius Slay in the end zone and pulls in an 8-yard touchdown reception.

The Panthers are lining up to attempt a two-point conversion.

Timeout #2 Panthers (1:07 4th)

Newton misses a wide-open Wright in the end zone and the Lions have a 1-point lead.

Lions 20, Panthers 19 (1:07 4th)

Lions give the ball right back after three plays

LeGarrette Blount takes the rock up the middle on first down for a 4-yard gain. He's smacked by Luke Kuechly in the backfield for a loss of 4 on second down.

Timeout #1 Carolina (3:40 4th)

Bruce Ellington hauls in a pass from Matt Stafford on third down, but Thomas Davis makes a nice tackle to ensure he doesn't get the first down. 

Sam Martin's punt is downed at the 25-yard-line.

Lions 20, Panthers 13 (2:44 4th)

Lions force three-and-out after touchdown

Sam Martin's kick goes through the end zone. Cam Newton and Co. will start at the 25.

Newton hits McCaffrey on a quick out route for a gain of 2. Newton's pass to DJ Moore on second down is wide and sails out-of-bounds. Newton goes at Darius Slay on third down with a throw to Devin Funchess, and the pass has a little too much mustard on it as it falls incomplete. The Panthers will punt.

Michael Palardy's punt is fair caught at the 21.

Lions 20, Panthers 13 (4:28 4th)

Golladay touchdown puts Lions on top in fourth

Graham Gano's goes through the end zone. Detroit takes over at the 25.

LeGarrette Blount gets the pitch on first down and is stopped for no gain. Bruce Ellington makes a catch while heading toward the sideline and gets a shove from Captain Munnerlyn after the fact. The referees throw a flag that's eventually picked up. Third-and-2 now. Theo Riddick takes a forward pitch from Matt Stafford and takes off for a gain of 17.

Julius Peppers sacks Stafford at the Detroit 45 for a loss of 5 on first down. Stafford is hit as he throws on the next play, forcing the ball to the ground. Carolina declines an illegal formation penalty assessed to the Lions. Stafford is chased from the pocket and then throws deep to Kenny Golladay; Golladay hauls in the pass for a 36-yard gain. 

Injury update: Kerryon Johnson is out for the game with a knee injury.

Riddick is wrapped up at the 19-yard-line on first down for no gain. Stafford's second-down pass intended for Golladay is just a bit high. Golladay makes a magnificent catch on third-and-10 to give the Lions the lead with a 19-yard touchdown pass.

The play is now under review.

And the play is confirmed. Touchdown, Lions.

Lions 20, Panthers 13 (5:13 4th)

Panthers tie game with long touchdown drive

Cam Newton is back in the game for Carolina as the Panthers take over at the 8-yard-line.

Tavon Wilson wraps up Curtis Samuel after a gain of 1 on first down. Wilson then makes a nice play to break up a pass attempt to Devin Funchess on second down. Funchess hauls in a pass with Darius Slay in coverage on third down, picking up 16 yards and a Carolina first down at the 25.

Newton hits Samuel near the right sideline on first down and Samuel gets 17 on the play. 

Then it's Greg Olsen getting some space, as he catches an 8-yard pass that moves Carolina to midfield. Christian McCaffrey picks up the first down with a 6-yard run. 

Newton hits DJ Moore on the next play for a 10-yard gain, moving Carolina to the 34.

McCaffrey catches a short pass and runs to a 9-yard gain. Detroit is getting picked apart on this drive. Samuel catches a 13-yard pass with Teez Tabor in coverage and Carolina has a first down at the 12.

Newton goes right back at Tabor on the next play with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Samuel.

But Graham Gano misses the extra point, and we're tied here in Detroit.

Lions 13, Panthers 13 (9:23 4th)

Johnson questionable to return, Lions' drive stalls in Carolina territory

Injury update: Kerryon Johnson was hurt on his last run and is now questionable to return with a knee injury.

Matt Stafford completes a first-down pass to Kenny Golladay that goes for 11 yards and picks up a first down at the Carolina 41. That's the last play of the third quarter.

Lions 13, Panthers 7 (End 3rd)

LeGarrette Blount gains 1 yard on first down. Stafford throws to Theo Riddick on second down; the ball bounces off Riddick's hands and falls to the turf. Bruce Ellington drops the third-down throw.

Matt Prater trots out to try a 58-yard field goal, but it may have been a decoy. The Lions are flagged for delay-of-game and Sam Martin will have some extra room to work with on the upcoming punt.

Martin's punt is fair caught at the 8-yard-line.

Lions 13, Panthers 7 (13:56 4th)

Newton hurt; Lions make big third-down stop

Damiere Byrd is brought down by Charles Washington after a 12-yard kickoff return. Carolina will start at its own 13-yard-line.

Injury update: Darius Slay has returned to the field for Detroit.

Cam Newton swings it out to Christian McCaffrey on a first-down completion that's good for 7 yards. McCaffrey is stuffed up the middle on second down for no gain. McCaffrey's 3-yard run on third down gets just enough for a first down.

Nevin Lawson makes a nice play to contain McCaffrey to 2 yards after he catches a pass out of the backfield. Newton is hit as he throws, and his pass is broken up at the line by Damon Harrison.

Injury: Cam Newton was thrown to the ground hard by Ziggy Ansah and was hurt on the play. He eventually limps off the field after being examined by the training staff.

Taylor Heinicke is in at quarterback for Carolina. He targets Devin Funchess on a third-down throw that's broken up by Darius Slay.

Michael Palardy's punt is returned by TJ Jones to the 49-yard-line.

Lions 13, Panthers 7 (0:32 3rd)

Lions extend lead with second Prater field goal

After the missed field goal, Detroit will take over at the 24. Kerryon Johnson can't find a lane on first down and is dropped for no gain. Kenny Golladay hauls in a pass from Matt Stafford and shakes off two defenders before getting up the sideline for a 13-yard gain. 

Stafford's throw to Bruce Ellington on first down is right on the money; Ellington picks up 11 to gives the Lions a first down at the 48. 

LeGarrette Blount loses a yard on first down.Theo Riddick breaks free from his defender and cuts upfield for a gain of 25. He got hit hard by Eric Reid at the end of the play, but Detroit has a first down at the Panther 35.

Bryan Cox gets into the backfield with ease on first down and takes Johnson to the turf for a loss of 3. Ellington gets open and makes a nice cut to escape from his defender after hauling in a second-down pass. He picks up 21 yards and Detroit is in the red zone.

Stafford's throw to Golladay on first down falls incomplete. Johnson takes the strong-side handoff, reverses field, and picks up 4 yards to set up third-and-6. Stafford is forced from the pocket and sails it out-of-bounds on third down with no open receiver in sight.

Matt Prater's 32-yard field goal is good.

Lions 13, Panthers 7 (3:47 3rd)

Lions' defense makes red-zone stand; Gano misses field goal

Christian McCaffrey is tackled at the line by Devon Kennard for no gain on first down. Cam Newton makes a dangerous throw to Greg Olsen on second down; his pass is broken up by Nevin Lawson. DJ Moore makes a great play to haul in a a pass near the sideline and then break free from Mike Ford. He runs all the way to Detroit's 12-yard-line before getting chased down by Darius Slay.

Injury: Darius Slay was hurt on the play. His return is questionable.

McCaffrey bounces a run to the outside for a pickup of 3 on first down. He then gets 5 yards up the middle on second down to make it third-and-2 from the 4. Nobody can get open for Carolina in the end zone, and second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis sacks Newton for a 12-yard loss. 

Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal attempt clanks off the uprights. Ford Field erupts, as the Lions still have the lead.

Lions 10, Panthers 7 (9:11 3rd)

Johnson dazzles on opening play of drive, Lions punt in Carolina territory

Graham Gano's kick goes for a touchback. Detroit will start at the 25.

Kerryon Johnson opens the half with a 24-yard run up the middle on first down. He's pushed out-of-bounds at the 49.

Johnson is wrapped up for a loss of 1 on the next play. Kenny Golladay doesn't turn around quick enough on Matt Stafford's second-down throw to make a play on the pass. It'll be third-and-11. Stafford is flushed from the pocket and is brought down at the 3 yards short of the line at the Carolina 44. 

Sam Martin's punt is downed by Miles Killebrew at the 6-yard-line.

Lions 10, Panthers 7 (12:55 3rd)

First half leaders 


DET - Matthew Stafford: 13/20, 64 yds.

CAR - Cam Newton: 9/14, 103 yds., TD, INT


DET - Kerryon Johnson: 10 atts., 64 yds., TD

CAR - Christian McCaffrey: 7 atts., 35 yds.


DET - Kenny Golladay: 4 recs., 34 yds.

CAR - DJ Moore: 4 recs., 57 yds.

Walker picks off Newton before halftime

Sam Martin's kick bounces into the end zone. Carolina has all three timeouts and will start from the 25 with 0:37 remaining.

The Panthers draw yellow laundry for a false start. The ball is now at the 20. 

Cam Newton goes deep to Curtis Samuel on first down and Tracy Walker travels across the field to take it away from the Panthers' receiver. The Lions will take over at the 47 with all three timeouts remaining and 29 seconds on the clock.

Lions 10, Panthers 7 (0:29 2nd)

Matt Stafford's pass to Bruce Ellington misses the mark on first down. Stafford goes down the left sideline to Ellington on second down, a play that draws two flags: One on Ellington and one on Carolina defensive back Captain Munnerlyn. The penalties will offset and they'll do the down over again.

Stafford goes deep to Golladay down the right sideline on second down, but Golladay can't gain position on his defender and the pass falls incomplete. Ellington can't hold onto the third-down pass while getting decked over the middle.

Injury: Bruce Ellington was hurt on the play and is being examined by the training staff.

Sam Martin's punt is almost blocked, and eventually goes into the end zone. That'll do it for the first half.

Lions 10, Panthers 7 (End 2nd)

Lions take lead before end of first half

Kerryon Johnson bounces a first-down run to the outside and gets up the sideline for a gain of 14. 

Kenny Golladay goes down at the 35-yard-line after picking up 5 yards on the reception.

Injury: Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson was hurt on the play and is helped off the field by the training staff.

Johnson moves the chains with a 5-yard run up the middle. 

Johnson catches a screen pass and shoots forward for a gain of 7 on the next play to set up second-and-3 at the 47.

Two-minute warning

Following the two-minute warning, Johnson moves the chains with a 4-yard run that'll put the Lions in Carolina territory at the 49.

Levine Toilolo catches a pass near the left sideline and makes a defender miss on his way to a 13-yard gain that'll give the Lions another first down.

Stafford's first-down throw to Kenny Golladay falls to the ground out-of-bounds. Stafford is forced to dump it off to Luke Willson quickly on second down on a play that gets 2 yards to set up third-and-8.

Timeout #1 Detroit (0:43 2nd)

After Detroit's timeout, officials blow things dead so the replay booth will have a chance to review Willson's catch on second down. 

Officials overturn the call on the field. It'll be third-and-10 from the 34. Because of the clock would have been blown dead after the incompletion, Detroit gets its timeout back.

Stafford sails it over Golladay's head on third down. Matt Prater will try a 54-yard field goal.

Prater's 54-yard attempt is good.

Lions 10, Panthers 7 (0:37 2nd)

Lions' defense keeping Newton in check

Cam Newton's first-down throw to Devin Funchess is just a bit beyond the open receiver and the Lions catch a break as he bobbles it to the turf. Christian McCaffrey picks up 10 on a second-down run to move the chains.

DJ Moore reaches the the 45-yard-line with a 5-yard reception on first down. McCaffrey gets a first down on the next play after taking a halfback pitch for an 8-yard gain.

Newton misses the mark on a first-down throw to Curtis Samuel. McCaffrey gains 3 yards up the middle on second down to make it third-and-7. The Lions bring the heat on third down and Ziggy Ansah tears around the edge to sack Newton for a loss of 10.

JJ Jansen's punt is fair caught by Bruce Ellington at the Detroit 16.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (4:13 2nd)

Lions going backwards on offense

Theo Riddick catches a 2-yard pass to Matt Stafford's right on first down. LeGarrette Blount gets the carry on second down and is wrapped up by Luke Kuechly for a loss of 2. Stafford checks down to Riddick on third down, and Riddick can't get away from the several Carolina defenders in his area. He's taken down for a loss of 4. 

Damiere Byrd loses a yard on the punt return and the Panthers will take over at their own 26.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (7:45 2nd)

Lions stop Panthers' offense on second consecutive drive

Christian McCaffrey is brought down by Damon Harrison after a gain of 2. DJ Moore gets open and Cam Newton hits him for a 10-yard pass that'll move the chains and give Carolina some breathing room.

Newton gets it to Jarius Wright on the next play over the middle for a gain of 5. The Panthers run a screen on second down, and the Lions are ready for it; McCaffrey is wrapped up for a gain of 3 to set up third-and-2. Funchess streaks down the sideline on third down, and Darius Slay gets over just in time to break up the pass from Newton. 

Bruce Ellington fair catches the ensuing punt at Detroit's 31-yard-line.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (9:44 2nd)

Lions can't bounce back from loss of yardage

Matt Stafford has a defender in his face immediately after rolling out in play-action and is forced to throw away the first-down pass. He hits Bruce Ellington over the middle on second down for a 10-yard gain that'll give the Lions a first down at the 40-yard-line and also end the first quarter.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (End 1st)

Kerryon Johnson has nowhere to go up the middle on first down and is dropped behind the line for a loss of 1. Stafford swings it out to Theo Riddick on second down, who tries to reverse field and ends up losing 3 yards. Third-and-14 coming up. Stafford gets it to Kenny Golladay just beyond the line-of-scrimmage; Golladay can't outrun Thomas Davis and is tackled short of the first-down marker.

Sam Martin's punt takes a great bounce and is downed at the 2-yard-line.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (12:46 2nd)

Lions' defensive front flashes teeth

Sam Martin's kick bounces out of the end zone. Carolina will start at the 25.

Christian McCaffrey is tackled by Devon Kennard after a 5-yard gain up the middle on first down. Cam Newton keeps it on second down and is stopped for no gain to set up third-and-5. The pocket collapses on Newton quickly on third down and Kennard sacks the Carolina quarterback by his ankles for a loss of 5.

Bruce Ellington calls for a fair catch on JJ Jansen's punt at the 30-yard-line.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (0:25 1st)

Johnson puts a jolt in Lions' offense on touchdown drive

Luke Willson shows off some shiftiness on the Lions' kick return, getting out to the 28.

Matt Stafford hits Kenny Golladay on a hook route for a gain of 9 on first down. Kerryon Johnson takes what probably should have been a loss and makes it a 2-yard gain that'll give the Lions a first down.

Johnson catches a pass to Stafford's right on first down and is pushed out-of-bounds after a gain of 3. Johnson then takes the handoff and bursts through the middle for a gain of 8 to give the Lions a new set of downs at midfield.

TJ Jones catches a short pass that goes for 2 yards on first down. Johnson hits a hole and runs with authority through the middle of the field, picking up 11 yards on second down to move the sticks. It'll be first-and-10 at the 37.

Bruce Ellington has nowhere on a bubble screen and gets wrapped up for no gain. LeGarrette Blount rushes for 3 yards on second down to set up third-and-7. Carolina corner James Bradberry jumps Golladay's route, but the Lions receiver snags it away, anyway. He gets up the field for a gain of 13.

Johnson is stopped at the 20 on first down, picking up a yard with a first-down run. Johnson runs into a handful of defenders and then bounces to the right side, picking up 12 yards and a Lions first down. It'll be first-and-goal from the 8.

Johnson hits a huge hole on the left side on the next play and waltzes into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown run.

Johnson rushed for 42 yards on 6 carries during the opening drive.

Lions 7, Panthers 7 (2:36 1st)

Carolina cruises on opening drive

Detroit has won the toss and elects to defer.

Sam Martin's kick is fielded by Damiere Byrd and returned to the 20. A holding penalty will back Carolina back to the 10 to start its opening drive.

Christian McCaffrey takes the handoff and gets 4 yards to the left side before being pushed out-of-bounds. The Lions are all over a second-down run by Cameron Artis-Payne, wrapping up the Carolina back after a gain of only 1. Jarius Wright beats Nevin Lawson to the outside and pulls in a 14-yard reception to give Carolina a first down at the 29.

DJ Moore pulls in a 13-yard reception on the next play to move the sticks again.

Cam Newton goes over the top to former Michigan Wolverine Devin Funchess, who's open in space and picks up 23 yards on the catch. Carolina has a new set of downs at the Detroit 35-yard-line.

Newton is flushed from the pocket and scrambles for a gain of 2 before getting pushed out-of-bounds by Christian Jones on first down. Newton fakes the handoff to McCaffrey and hits Moore with a dart over the middle. Moore advances to the Detroit 4-yard-line with a gain of 29. First-and-goal coming up.

Newton throws to Funchess to his left, and Darius Slay makes a nice play to smack the ball out of his hands. McCaffrey is stopped by Damon Harrison short of the goal line on second down to set up third-and-goal from the 1. The whole defense bites on play-action to McCaffrey on third down, and Newton tosses it to a wide-open Greg Olsen to give Carolina an early lead.

Panthers 7, Lions 0 (9:27 1st)


Lions: Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Brandon Powell, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, tight end Michael Roberts and defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and Eric Lee are inactive for Detroit. Additionally, wide receiver Andy Jones has been promoted to the active roster from the practice squad.

Panthers: Wide receiver Torrey Smith, running backs Kenjon Barner and Travaris Cadet, linebacker Andre Smith, defensive end Efe Obada and offensive guards Brendan Mahon and Amini Silatolu are inactive for Carolina.

Pregame notes

The Detroit Lions will try to end their three-game losing streak on Sunday when the Carolina Panthers visit Ford Field. Follow the action here with live updates throughout the game by Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News.

Damon "Snacks" Harrison, who was acquired by Detroit in exchange for a fifth-round pick from the New York Giants on Oct. 24, leads the league in tackles (51) by a defensive tackle this season.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson is averaging 5.38 yards per carry through nine games, trailing only San Francisco back Matt Breida in that statistic this season.

Sunday's game will be a "Color Rush" matchup, with Detroit donning their all-silver uniforms and Carolina rocking black jerseys and pants. 


Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Lions 3-6, Panthers 6-3

Line: Panthers by 4


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