Panthers top Lions without embattled Hardy in lineup

nfl-newtonEven without one of their top defenders, the Carolina Panthers had plenty of reinforcements on that side of ball and their starting quarterback back on offense.

Those were enough to subdue the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.

Quarterback Cam Newton engineered two touchdown drives of 70 or more yards in the second half as the Panthers overcame offensive sluggishness in a 24-7 victory over the Lions at Bank of America Stadium.

Carolina played without defensive end Greg Hardy, who was inactive for the game amid scrutiny involving a domestic violence case. Coach Ron Rivera took responsibility for the decision to have Hardy sit out less than a week after the domestic violence issue became a headline topic as related to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

“When a guy goes down or a guy’s not active, somebody else has to step up,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said.

Mario Addison turned out to be a capable replacement, logging 2 1/2 sacks for a defense that didn’t miss a beat.

“We’ve got a great D-line,” Addison said. “(Without) Greg Hardy, we had big shoes to fill. We know we have to play as a team.”

Rivera said Hardy has not been ruled out for upcoming games and expects him to be back on the field at some point.

“This is a very serious situation and set of circumstances,” he said. “We are going to work things out and hopefully we get it right.”

Newton, making his season debut after sitting out the opening victory at Tampa Bay because of injured ribs, connected on 22 of 34 passes for 281 yards.

Kicker Graham Gano was perfect on three field-goal attempts and also recovered a fumble for the Panthers.

“We had a slow start,” Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin said. “We showed we got better.”

Detroit lost three turnovers and wasted first-half scoring chances.

“Turnovers, that’s one thing we have to fix,” Lions tight end Joseph Fauria said. “We left points on the board and that’s one thing we can fix.”

Carolina’s offense was trouble spot for the Panthers until a third-quarter drive.

They answered Detroit’s only touchdown with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Newton to receiver Jason Avant.

Running back Jonathan Stewart’s 2-yard touchdown run with 7:26 came before receiver Jerricho Cotchery’s two-point conversion reception from Newton, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 21-7.

When Gano recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers were sitting in good shape after he booted a 38-yard field goal with less than five minutes remaining.

Photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers

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