It was supposed to be a "get right" game for a Carolina Panthers team that just took one on the chin in Pittsburgh.
Instead, the Panthers came away from Sunday's 20-19 loss in Detroit with a different message – get it together.
The Lions controlled the game through three quarters, but never quite pulled away. Yet, despite only trailing by one score throughout much of the contest, the Panthers made their deficit look three times wider than it really was. Dropped passes, missed tackles, missed field goals, missed extra points- whatever opportunities they were awarded, they constantly found ways to miss them.
Carolina scored on its opening drive but allowed a 12-play scoring drive immediately after. Its next six drives ended in four punts, a missed field goal and an interception. Even when Curtis Samuel reeled in a much-needed game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, Carolina could not take the lead – Graham Gano missed the extra point.
Detroit marched down the field and scored to take the lead once again, although it still could not put the game away. The Panthers scored on a picture-perfect grab by D.J. Moore, opting to go for two instead of kicking the extra point. For what it's worth, Cam Newton had Jarius Wright open in the end zone. But he threw the ball behind him, and what could go down as the season's most disappointing loss held firm.
Three who mattered
D.J. Moore: While Devin Funchess struggled, Moore thrived, putting up a career-high 157 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, most of it coming on an 82-yard catch-and-run on third down midway through the third quarter.
Newton Cam: He once again dealt with more pressure than he's used to seeing, but Newton played well, completing 25-of-37 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns against one interception.
Kerryon Johnson: He was the Lions' offense before leaving the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
▪ Devin Funchess led the Panthers out of the tunnel before the game. He grew up in nearby Farmington Hills, Mich., Roughly 30 minutes away from the Ford Field Lions.
▪ Moore corralled all four of his targets for 57 yards in the first half. He had five catches for 36 yards in his previous two games, combined ..
▪ The Panthers rushed for a season-low 55 yards, well below their 138-yards-per-game average.
▪ Funchess was targeted eight times, catching two passes and dropping five. He was also overthrown once.
▪ Carolina's average drive after a Lions punt started on its 18-yard line. The Panthers started within their 10-yard line three times.
▪ The Panthers scored on their opening drive for the second straight game after failing to do so in their previous eight games.
▪ Newton briefly left the game with an injury and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke filled in for him for one play. Newton returned on the following drive, completing 8-of-9 passes for 86 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Samuel.
▪ Conditions were ideal inside the enclosed Ford Field, but snow fell throughout Detroit before the game.
They said it
▪ "He ran a comeback, he was in man. (I went) toward the ball, looked back, caught the ball, thought I had the ball, he came up at the end and grabbed it from me as I'm going to the ground. You've got to capitalize on opportunities and I did not do that. "- James Bradberry on Kenny Golladay's catch over him in the first quarter.
▪ "I thought I was gone. I still do not know where he came from. "- Jarius Wright on nearly scoring on his 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
▪ "I was going for the win. That's just the bottom line. "- Ron Rivera on his decision to go for two instead of kicking the extra point in the fourth quarter