Panthers fall on road again
Carolina arrived in Detroit with a 1-3 road record and headed home with another loss, falling 20-19 to the Lions on a failed two-point try with 1:07 to go. Quarterback Cam Newton had time to scan the field and spotted wide receiver Jarius Wright breaking open over the middle, but his pass sailed past Wright and Carolina couldn't recover the onside kick.
The Panthers fell to 6-4 on the season, setting up a big game in terms of playoff hopes when Carolina hosts 5-5 Seattle next Sunday. That will mark the middle game in a five-game stretch in which the other four games are on the road, so obviously the Panthers need to figure out a way to win on the road and soon.
Difficult day for Gano
The Panthers went for two after DJ Moore's 8-yard touchdown catch with 67 seconds left in part because of their kicker's uncharacteristic struggles. Graham Gano had missed a PAT after Carolina tied the game at 13-13 with 9:23 left in the game. Gano entered the day owning an NFL-best streak of 28 consecutive field goals made, but that run ended earlier in the second half when he missed a short one – a 34-yarder on Carolina's first drive of the second half.
A scare for Newton
Newton went down in obvious pain late in the third quarter when a Lions defender rolled up on his left ankle as he delivered a pass. After the medical staff took its time with him down on the turf, Newton came off the field under his own power. Taylor Heinicke filled in on the subsequent third-and-8 and delivered a ball right on target in traffic that Devin Funchess couldn't corral (it was that kind of day for the Michigan native). The next time the Panthers took possession, Newton was back in and led the offense 92 yards to a touchdown that tied the game at 13-13.
Frustrating field position
The offense always had a long ways to go. Carolina's best starting field position was its own 25-yard line (five times). Their first two touchdown drives started at the 10 and the 8. Other drives started at the 2, the 6 and the 13. Success on the ground for Lions rookie running back Kerryon Johnson contributed to Carolina being backed up. He rushed for 87 yards on 15 carries before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury.
Fast start, then stifled
For the second consecutive week, a fast start for Carolina fizzled quickly. One week after a touchdown drive to open the game quickly gave way to two Steelers touchdowns, a similar but thankfully not as severe scenario played out.
Carolina couldn't have been more impressive after taking the opening kickoff, marching 90 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Newton was 5-for-6 for 80 yards on the march, hitting five different receivers – including tight end Greg Olsen wide open for a 1-yard score on third and goal.
The Lions didn't answer as swiftly as the Steelers did but they did answer, going 72 yards for the tying score on their opening drive. From there, Carolina didn't score again in the first half, managing just 37 yards and three first downs the rest of the half. Carolina's defense did a similar job against Detroit, though the Lions did claim a 10-7 halftime lead on a 54-yard field goal off the foot of Matt Prater.