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Carolina 31, Detroit 7

Sept. 15, 2002 at 8:58 PM   |   Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Lamar Smith ran for two touchdowns and Rodney Peete passed for a score Sunday as the Carolina Panthers handed the Detroit Lions another embarrassing setback, 31-7.

Last season, the Panthers (2-0) won their season opener at Minnesota before dropping their final 15 games. Under new coach John Fox, the Panthers opened the 2002 campaign with a 10-7 victory over Baltimore last Sunday.

"Winning breeds confidence," Fox said. "Right now we are a lot more confident than we were two weeks ago. We still have to get ready to play Minnesota and take our show on the road, so that will be our next test. I'm very pleased where we're at right now."

"This was huge for us to come back and prove last week wasn't a fluke," said Panthers safety Mike Minter, who scored on a 40-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. "This is a new football team. For us to go in and win the way we did, it was awesome."

Smith helped the Panthers make it consecutive wins, running for a three-yard touchdown in the third quarter and scoring from one yard early in the fourth, giving Carolina a 31-7 lead.

"Every week is a new challenge," Fox said. "I thought our guys responded well. I though we played a real efficient game offensively. I don't believe we had any penalties offensively. I know we didn't have any turnovers."

A 14-year veteran who was facing one of his many former teams, Peete completed 21 of 31 passes for 310 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammed in the second quarter.

Under coach Marty Mornhinweg, the Lions lost their first 12 games last season en route to a 2-14 campaign. Last Sunday, the Lions started the 2002 season with a 49-21 loss at Miami.

Things didn't get much better in this one as Mornhinweg used both Mike McMahon and rookie Joey Harrington at quarterback without success. The duo combined to go 12 of 30 for 106 yards and two interceptions.

"Our offense was horrible," Mornhinweg said. "We had trouble completing basic passes. We stayed close at halftime and then did absolutely nothing.

"We changed quarterbacks because we were having trouble completing passes. It is as simple as that. We've got a lot of work to do."

McMahon also lost a fumble for the Lions (0-2), who punted 11 times. He scored on an 11-yard run in the third quarter.

With each team struggling on offense, it was a mistake by the Lions' offense that led to the game's first points in the second quarter.

Facing third and 15 at his own 27, Harrington was intercepted by linebacker Mark Fields, giving Carolina a possession at the Detroit 32.

Five plays later, John Kasay kicked a 23-yard field goal.

Working in the hurry-up-offense, Peete got the Panthers moving before halftime, when they embarked on a five-play, 69-yard drive.

The 36-yard signal-caller capped the drive with 46 seconds left in the half when he connected with Muhammed for a 22-yard touchdown. Muhammed had eight catches for 107 yards.

McMahon finally got the Lions moving on their first possession of the third quarter, when they went 76 yards in five plays.

McMahon found Scott Anderson for 21 yards to put the Lions in Panthers territory. Three plays later, McMahon ran around left end for an 11-yard touchdown.

But any momentum the Lions gained from that score was quickly erased on the Panthers' next drive.

On second down, Peete dumped a pass to Smith, who rambled 58 yards to the Detroit 19. Two plays later, Smith scored on a three-yard run to make it 17-7 with 6:47 left in the third quarter.

Smith carried 21 times for 56 yards and added three catches for 77 yards.

On their next possession, the Lions committed another miscue when McMahon was intercepted by safety Mike Minter, who scored on a 40-yard return to make it 24-7.

Smith provided the final margin with 9:43 left in the fourth when he capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive with a one-yard run.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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