The 2014 Detroit Lions did an excellent 2013 Detroit Lions impression on Sunday. They left a lot of points on the field, had multiple costly turnovers and simply didn't do enough to score an upset over the Carolina Panthers. Instead, the Panthers pulled away in the second half en route to a 24-7 victory over the Lions.
The Lions opened this game with the ball and put together a decent drive that ultimately produced no points. The Lions dodged a bullet early in the drive when Jed Collins recovered a Golden Tate fumble, and they dodged another bullet when Joique Bell nearly fumbled the ball away to the Panthers. The play was ruled incomplete rather than a catch and a fumble, but it didn't really matter in the end, because Nate Freese pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.
After a Carolina punt, the Lions again had a promising drive that produced no points. This time it wasn't a missed field goal that capped off the drive, but instead it was a Bell fumble. There was no chance for an incomplete ruling on this play, as Bell put the ball on the ground on a run. Antoine Cason recovered the ball at the Carolina 27, and the Lions once again blew a great opportunity for points.
The two teams proceeded to trade punts before Carolina broke the scoreless tie with a 29-yard field goal. All things considered, holding the Panthers to a field goal was actually a win for Detroit considering this was a 14-play drive that took 6:04 off the clock. The Lions struggled to tackle, and they had issues getting off the field on third down, so simply keeping the Panthers out of the end zone was a positive thing given the circumstances.
The Lions followed up Carolina's long drive with yet another promising possession that ended with no points. Calvin Johnson nearly made a nice catch in the end zone for a touchdown on third-and-8 from the Carolina 31, but the ball came loose and he wasn't able to complete the process. This meant that the Lions had to settle for a field goal, and Freese missed wide right from 49 yards yet again.
The Panthers did not have any kind of kicking issues on Sunday. On their final real possession of the second quarter, Graham Gano added a 53-yard field goal, giving the Panthers a 6-0 halftime lead. The Lions did have an opportunity to get on the scoreboard with 1:11 to go in the first half, but all the drive was good for was an ugly display of passing and some poor clock management. The Lions ended up punting, and Carolina ran out the final 13 seconds to take their 6-0 lead into halftime.
Things went much better for the Lions at the start of the second half. C.J. Mosley sacked Cam Newton on the first play of the third quarter, leading to a quick three-and-out. Then, after getting the ball back with decent field position, the Lions put together a touchdown drive. They quickly moved the ball through the air with a 10-yard pass to Johnson, a 14-yard pass to Jeremy Ross and a 17-yard pass to Eric Ebron. Bell had a run for 12 yards in between, and Reggie Bush got the Lions in position to score with a 6-yard run. The Lions did in fact score on a 1-yard pass to Jed Collins, who ran over Luke Kuechly on his way into the end zone.
The Lions got the ball back after another defensive stop that included a sack. This time, Stephen Tulloch took down Newton for a loss of 15 yards, but the Lions were unable to capitalize following the punt. They went three-and-out, and the Lions were really lucky to even get to that point. Two Stafford passes were nearly picked off on this brief drive, but the ball hit the ground both times.
The Lions defense really fell apart on Carolina's next possession. Newton was able to find open receivers on virtually every play, and he quickly moved the Panthers down the field through the air. Eventually, Newton found Jason Avant for a 14-yard touchdown, putting the Panthers on top by a score of 13-7.
Detroit was unable to answer Carolina's score with points of its own. The Lions did get a yard into Carolina territory, but Stafford was promptly sacked on third-and-5. Sam Martin then punted the ball 64 yards for a touchback, and the Lions defense responded with a huge stop.
With the Panthers going three-and-out, the Lions got the ball near midfield. It looked like they had a great chance to add some points, but instead Stafford threw an interception on the first and only play of the drive. Stafford underthrew Johnson, who was covered by two defenders downfield, and the ball was tipped and picked off.
The Panthers took advantage of the turnover with a 9-play touchdown drive. The Lions had a chance to get off the field near the 50-yard line with Carolina facing third-and-12, but Avant got wide open for 21 yards. Later, the Lions had an opportunity to hold Carolina to a field goal, but Rashean Mathis was flagged for holding in the end zone on third down. The Panthers scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Stewart on the very next play, and they converted their 2-point conversion attempt as well.
This game essentially came to an end after Ross fumbled the ball away on the ensuing kickoff. Gano -- yes, the Panthers' kicker -- recovered the fumble, and he later added a 38-yard field goal to give Carolina a 24-7 lead. The Lions looked like they were going to push Carolina out of field goal range with a 15-yard sack, but a questionable tripping penalty on Devin Taylor negated it and led to the Gano kick.
No points were added by either team following Gano's latest field goal, so the Lions lost by a score of 24-7. They are now 1-1 on the season, and they have another tough test coming up with the Green Bay Packers coming to town next Sunday.
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