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Detroit Lions upset Panthers after Ron Rivera’s two-point conversion decision backfires

November 19, 2018

The Detroit Lions upset the Carolina Panthers, 20-19, to snap a three-game losing streak but lost second-round RB Kerryon Johnson to a left knee injury.

Matt Patricia’s club hung on for its fourth win after Panthers coach Ron Rivera opted to try a two-point conversion following a Cam Newton-to-D.J. Moore touchdown that could’ve tied the game in the final minute and a half. Newton, with all day to throw, air-mailed Jarius Wright in the end zone to seal the win for Detroit, which received big contributions from Kenny Golladay and an O-line in the crosshairs after ceding 16 combined sacks over the past two games.

Matthew Stafford was sacked only once, completing 23-of-37 for 220 yards and a touchdown. Newton, who temporarily departed the game in the first half with a left ankle injury, tossed three touchdowns but also an interception and couldn’t punctuate the late drive for a potential Carolina win.

Instead, the Panthers suddenly have lost two straight — one via a blowout in Pittsburgh two Thursdays ago and Sunday after the gutsy decision by “Riverboat Ron” backfired. It should be noted that Rivera’s decision likely was influenced by the struggles of PK Graham Gano, who missed two earlier PATs.

The Lions desperately needed a win, but losing their leading rusher in Johnson is a difficult pill to swallow. He was able to limp to the bench after suffering the injury late in the third quarter, but he quickly exited the field for the locker room with the help of trainers. Johnson had 15 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown at the time of his injury, with Detroit leading Carolina, 10-7.

Now 4-6, the Lions have a quick turnaround in Week 12, when they host the division-leading Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving morning. Johnson, who scored two touchdowns in Detroit’s 34-22 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field only one week ago, could be hard-pressed to play on only three days rest.

The Lions pulled off the upset despite the departure of Johnson and playing Sunday without leading receiver Marvin Jones, who suffered his own knee injury last week, and A’Shawn Robinson, among others. They also overcame another bout of adversity under their rookie head coach, whose decision to practice in the snow this week was criticized, prompting Patricia to address the issue with the media in another awkward press conference.

Had the Lions lost, Patricia’s decision might be further scrutinized. Instead, his team earned another big victory over a playoff contender in the continuation of its jekkyl-and-hyde season.

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