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When Detroit looked like it was trying to set up a field goal to take a 10-point lead, Smith took a handoff and ran 19 yards for a TD with two minutes left to finish off the Lions' 35-point second half.
"I knew that in this league, if you are available and you have talent, you'll get a chance," Smith said.
The Panthers were determined to make someone other than Johnson -- with 11 TD catches coming in -- beat them. Once Stafford figured that out, he flourished. He connected with five different targets -- none named Johnson -- for scores and settled for short passes instead of long ones.
Stafford had TD passes of 28 yards to Kevin Smith, 3 yards to Titus Young, 16 yards to Burleson, 17 yards to Tony Scheffler and 7 yards to Pettigrew.
"When Matt knows he can throw a short pass to one of our receivers or running backs, they can get yards after the catch, it gives you a lot of confidence as a quarterback," Schwartz said.
The Lions turned the ball over on their first three drives, then pulled within three points when Smith ran for 43 yards and turned a screen pass into a 28-yard TD on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.
Detroit quickly lost the momentum when Panthers rookie Kealoha Pilares returned the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a score to put Carolina up 17-7 early in the second quarter.
The Lions overcame eight penalties, some that extended drives for Carolina, to avoid a loss that would've hurt their playoff positioning.
Detroit had lost two straight at home and three of four overall and appeared to be headed toward another setback until Stafford started clicking and its defense began slowing down the Panthers.
NOTES: Panthers TE Jeremy Shockey (ribs), LB Dan Connor (shoulder) and Lions DL Lawrence Jackson (thigh) and Willie Young (ankle) were inactive. ... Detroit previously ruled out RB Jahvid Best, who hasn't played since Oct. 16 because of a concussion. ... Carolina is winless on the road this season. ... Smith's previous career high in rushing yards was 112 as a Detroit rookie in 2008 at Carolina.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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