It was a tale of two halves. The Panthers put together a brilliant first half, leading the Detroit Lions 27-14 at the break. Then, inexplicably, they played one of the worst halves of football I've ever witnessed in the third and fourth quarters, especially on defense. The Panthers were outscored 35-8 during this stretch as the Lions got anything they wanted on offense.
After forcing three turnovers in the first quarter, the Panthers were able to jump out to an early 10-0 lead. Then, after the Lions cut it to 10-7 in two plays, Kealoha Pilares returned a kickoff 101 yards for a score. This was Carolina's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Rod Smart did it in 2003. Cam Newton was able to find the end zone from 11 yards out after a third-down penalty kept a Panthers drive alive on their next offensive possession, giving them a 24-7 lead. They answered a Titus Young 3-yard touchdown with a Olindo Mare 31-yard field goal at the end of the half to lead 27-14 at the break.
The second half was the most pathetic display of football I have ever seen. Cam Newton threw three second-half picks, one of which came with over two minutes left in the game, down 42-35, with a chance to tie the score. The Panthers offense was not very good, but the defense was just beyond horrendous. Matthew Stafford threw for 335 yards and five touchdowns, and Kevin Smith ran for 140 yards and two scores, and the Panthers defense gave up 495 total yards to the Lions.
I know the defense has been decimated by injuries and the linebackers are mostly backups and journeymen, but this game was just painful to watch. Ron Rivera should get one more year, but if the Panthers don't get it together next season, Jerry Richardson needs to clean house — including general manager Marty Hurney. As a fan, I am frankly sick of being the doormat of the NFL. Something needs to change. And fast. Because losing 22 out of your last 26 games really, really sucks.
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