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Story of the Game
Just before kickoff, Carolina announced that Bridgewater would be active but only in an emergency capacity, giving former XFL superstar P.J. Walker his first NFL start. Walker had some ups (a 52-yard bomb to D.J. Moore) and some downs (two end-zone interceptions) but was able to complete 71% of his passes for 258 yards. All three of the Panthers' top wide receivers — Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel and Moore — caught at least seven passes, the second time the trio has reached that mark this season.
The Panthers weren’t the only ones with injuries to key components of their offense. Detroit was missing emerging rookie running back D’Andre Swift due to a concussion and star wide receiver Kenny Golladay because of a hip injury that has sidelined him for multiple weeks. Matthew Stafford was also playing through a torn ligament in his thumb that possibly had an impact on his ability to throw the ball downfield. Stafford had only two passes that gained 20-plus yards (his second-fewest of the season).
Without Swift, the Detroit run game was non-existent. Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson combined for 2.7 yards per carry on 13 attempts, with Johnson and Stafford each having just one rush attempt gaining five-plus yards.
Neither team had many rookies contribute on the offensive end. Guard Jonah Jackson led the way with 55 offensive snaps and allowed three pressures on the day. Rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus was targeted twice, hauling in one for 9 yards.
The same cannot be said on the other side of the ball, with seven rookies seeing at least 20 snaps on defense. Jeremy Chinn led the way for a young Panthers defense with 55 defensive snaps played. Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos and Bravvion Roy each saw at least 20 snaps on the defensive line, with Brown recording one pressure.
For Detroit, cornerback Jeffrey Okudah continued his rookie season struggles, allowing five catches for 82 yards on five targets.
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