DETROIT – Chris Weinke was sharp, not rusty.

Playing in his first game since 2002, Weinke threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 32 seconds left to give the Carolina Panthers a 21-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Weinke relieved Jake Delhomme, who was knocked out of the game on the game-winning drive when he escaped a sack, ran up field, slid and was hit hard by safety Kenoy Kennedy.

The backup quarterback took over at midfield with 2:56 left and calmly led the Panthers down the field. He connected with Proehl on a third-and-3 from Detroit’s 41 and threw the TD pass to the second-string receiver one play after Proehl dropped the ball in the end zone. Weinke completed 5 of 7 passes for 47 yards.

The Lions (2-3) got the ball back at midfield with 24 seconds left, but couldn’t complete a pass.

Safety Mike Minter made a play that allowed Carolina (4-2) to win its third straight game.

Marcus Pollard caught a pass from Joey Harrington and was caught from behind by Minter, stopping an 86-yard gain at Carolina’s 5. The Lions had to settle for Jason Hanson’s 25-yard field goal and a 20-14 lead with 5:08 left.

The Lions (2-3) returned two interceptions for scores in the first half and Hanson made two field goals in the second half.

Delhomme and Harrington had three turnovers apiece in the first 34 minutes of the game. With Carolina receiver Keary Colbert’s fumble and Detroit receiver Mike Williams’ fumble, the teams combined for eight turnovers through three quarters.

Delhomme was 15-of-25 for 236 yards with two TDs and three interceptions.

Harrington, who was booed constantly, finished 17-of-28 for 201 yards with an interception and two fumbles.

Steve Smith caught six passes for 123 yards, including an 80-yard TD. Rod Gardner had four receptions for 32 yards, including a 4-yard TD.

Pollard had three catches for 105 yards and came up just short on a reception that would have put the Lions ahead by two scores late in the game.

The stingy defenses limited the ground games: Detroit’s Kevin Jones had 21 yards rushing and Carolina’s Stephen Davis had 27 yards on the ground.

It was tied at 14 at halftime after both teams blocked a field goal.

Detroit’s offense finally scored with 40 seconds left in the third quarter and took a 17-14 lead on Hanson’s 52-yard kick. The go-ahead score came on a laboring, 11-play, 31-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion.

On the ensuing possession, Carolina had a chance to tie the game, but chose to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the Lions 4 and Delhomme came up short on a sneak.

Both teams were missing some key players.

The Lions were without receiver Roy Williams (quadriceps) and defensive end James Hall (groin) while Carolina running back DeShaun Foster (knee), cornerback Chris Gamble (ankle) and fullback Brad Hoover (shoulder) were also inactive.

AP-ES-10-16-05 1705EDT


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