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Cam Newton leads dominant Panthers win over Lions

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Cam Newton returned to the lineup after missing last week with a rib injury and lead the Carolina Panthers to a convincing 24-7 win over the Detroit Lions. Our takeaways:

1. Cam Newton looked excellent in his return. He didn't lose any of the velocity on his fastball, which he displayed often (22-of-34 passing for 281 yards and a TD). Newton showed some rust early, but spread the ball around to his receivers and picked apart the Lions' D. SuperCam isn't going to change the way he plays. He still got out and ran and looked mobile in space. The only question is the initial burst off the surgically repaired ankle. He got tackled on some plays he generally bounces out of.

2. The Panthers reminded us how tough-minded they are as a team. The offseason questions were answered: Carolina remains a legit playoff contender. The Panthers defense slowed down a high-powered offense and got pressure without Greg Hardy. This is still a very, very good defense without the pass rusher.

3. Some of the luster fell off Matthew Stafford following his glowing Week 1. The quarterback reverted to forcing passes to Calvin Johnson too often and woefully under threw Megatron on a ball that was picked off. Stafford still looks much more in control of the offense and displayed that improved footwork. However, the 26-year-old quarterbacks' improvement under Jim Caldwell is clearly a process.

4. It was a typical road loss for the Lions. Despite controlling play early and racking up yards, Detroit missed two field goals, turned the ball over three times, missed tackles and dropped passes. The more things change the more they stay the same.

5. Neither team could run the ball. The Panthers clearly missed DeAngelo Williams. The Lions' offensive line couldn't open lanes for the second consecutive week.

6. So much for that "Panthers' sad receiving corps" storyline. Newton completed passes to seven different targets. Veterans Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery showed they can still play big roles in a possession offense. In two weeks, Greg Olsen has 14 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.

7. Kelvin Benjamin struggled at bit in his first game with Newton (3 drops), but still makes ridiculous catches.

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