Changing Play: Kennedy Hit Knocked Out Lions
Detroit throttled the Panthers running game led by Stephen Davis, holding him to just 27 yards on 13 carries and 57 yards in rushing offense overall. Further, they intercepted starting quarterback Jake Delhomme three times including two returned by linebacker Boss Bailey (34 yards) and safety Kenoy Kennedy (67 yards) for touchdowns.
But in the biggest game-changing play of the afternoon, Detroit's Kenoy Kennedy laid a huge hit on Carolina's Jake Delhomme who was scrambling out of the pocket. Delhomme was injured on the play and it looked like the Lions had salted away a win, but things weren't at all what they seemed.
Once Delhomme was helped from the field, Kennedy was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moving the Panthers into Detroit territory from their 38-yard line to the Detroit 47-yard line.
Carolina then turned to backup Chris Weinke, a former Florida State standout who had been languishing on the bench for the last three seasons after losing the starting job to Delhomme.
Conversely, Detroit's Kennedy appeared to be dazed after the play and was a step behind in coverage from that point forward. After connecting with receiver Rod Gardner on his first throw in the drive, Weinke locked in on Proehl, who was running precision routes behind the Detroit linebackers and in front of the Lions safeties.
On a 3rd-and-3, with 2:22 remaining, Weinke hit Proehl for five yards a first down at the Detroit 36-yard line at the two minute warning. Weinke hooked up with Proehl again for 18 more yards to the Detroit 18-yard line. Another to Proehl for 15 yards got the Panthers to the Detroit 3-yard line.
After an incomplete attempt to Proehl and a Carolina running play that Detroit stopped for no gain and that ran 26 seconds off the clock, it looked like Detroit might survive. Just :36 was left and Carolina faced a 3rd-and-goal at the Detroit three-yard line.
But Weinke completed the drive, connecting with Proehl again for three yards and the touchdown. In the drive the veteran was 5-of-7 for 47 yards, a 71.4% completion rate and a 129.2 passer rating.
"I knew sooner or later things were going to work out for me, said Weinke in the post game locker room. "I've never once ever, since I started playing sports, have I ever said I was going to give up. I do it for things like today, to give this football team a chance to win."
With :32 remaining and a patchwork offensive line unable to protect him, four Joey Harrington passes - including a drop by rookie Glen Martinez who had just been activated off the practice squad - fell incomplete ended Detroit's hopes.
But Kennedy's hit is likely to have lingering effect. Most observers in the press box felt that Kennedy will be hearing from the league office with a fine coming and perhaps even a suspension. He was unapologetic.
"I play football. That's what I do," said Kennedy. "I am an aggressive guy. I'm not a fancy guy. I don't have the best footwork, but what I do is come up and be aggressive. If I stop doing that, than I'd be at home watching the game on TV."
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