Cam Newton's three TDs power Panthers over Lions

Cam Newton tossed three touchdown passes, and Carolina's defense dominated as the Panthers (4-1) held off a Detroit Lions (3-2) comeback for a 27-24 win at Ford Field. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Coming off a controversial week, Cam Newton played lights out all afternoon, vacillating from quick lasers to deep dimes. Given plenty of time to sit in the pocket, Newton looked like his 2015 MVP-self, dissecting the defense, going through his progression, and using his legs when needed. His beautiful 31-yard touchdown strike to Kelvin Benjamin should be enshrined in highlight reels. Newton iced the game on another pinpoint dart to Benjamin when the Lions closed the gap to three points. After struggling to open the season, Newton has blasted off, surpassing the 300-plus passing yards mark and 130-plus passer rating in back-to-back games. Newton finished 26-of-33 passing for 355 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a 141.8 passer rating in Sunday's win.
  1. The Ed Dickson Show dominated in Detroit. Greg Olsen's understudy found green grass all day, gashing Lions linebackers and safeties for five receptions and 175 yards. Dickson changed the complexion of the game in the first half with catch-and-runs of 64 yards and 57 yards, setting up Panthers scores to help blow the game open early in the third quarter. Dickson hadn't earned more than 135 yards in an entire season since 2013. Devin Funchess also continues to break out as his rapport with Newton improves. The Michigan native snatched seven passes for 53 yards and a touchdown on a team-high eight targets. With Dickson and Funchess on the upslope, the Panthers' offense will remain a diverse threat.
  1. Matthew Stafford's struggles continued. The Lions quarterback was held under 300 yards passing for the fifth straight time this season. Stafford was smothered all game, and his receivers couldn't uncover themselves downfield. Stafford put up some garbage-time yardage in a comeback effort after compiling just 99 passing yards the first three quarters (finished with 229 yards on 23-of-35 passing and two touchdowns). Credit the Panthers' swarming front for making Stafford a piñata. Carolina sacked Stafford six times, earned well over double-digit hurries and forced a fumble. The Lions' offensive line continues to struggle mightily, especially left tackle Greg Robinson. Detroit's prolonged offensive lulls put its defense in poor situations. Stafford & Co. had six drives of three or fewer plays. At one point, the Panthers scored 24 points between Lions first downs.
  1. The Detroit defense has lived and died forcing turnovers this season. They were eaten up Sunday when they couldn't force a takeaway. Detroit continued to struggle covering tight ends, and didn't get enough pressure off the edge to bother Newton. One bright note for the Lions' D: first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis returned after missing the past two games and played well, shooting the gap versus the run. He earned two tackles for loss and disrupted the Panthers' run game.
  1. Christian McCaffrey scored his first career touchdown on a beautifully designed play by offensive coordinator Mike Shula. The Panthers utilized Newton's threat to run with tailback Jonathan Stewart as a pitch option wide. McCaffrey then snuck up the middle for the shovel pass and dashed to the end zone. Linebackers are in a no-win situation diagnosing Newton on this type of play.
  1. Lions tight end Eric Ebron continues to struggle with drops. His flub on a potential touchdown on the opening drive changed the game. Ebron dropped two passes and caught just one pass on four targets. Darren Fells, meanwhile, is outplaying the former first-round pick, catching two touchdown passes Sunday on two targets.
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