Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson corrals his second touchdown pass of the game.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.J. Nelson had a whale of a game for a backup on Sunday against the Panthers.
So good, in fact, he's now a starter.
The second-year wideout hauled in eight catches for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 30-20 loss to the Panthers, showing his talent as an intermediate receiver rather than just a deep threat.
Nelson saw a lot of time because of hamstring injuries to John Brown and Michael Floyd, but coach Bruce Arians didn't want him referred to as a fill-in.
"J.J. didn't step in," Arians said. "That's his job right now, and somebody is going to have to take it back from him."
Nelson has seen his production increase over the past three games after being dogged by injuries early in the season. He got the Cardinals on the board in the second quarter against Carolina, darting wide open to the corner of the end zone and making sure his feet were in on the easy 5-yard reception.
He added a second score from four yards out late to pull the Cardinals within 30-20, although he couldn't bring in the two-point conversion attempt. The Cardinals have a deep receiving corps, and it seemed like Nelson would be relegated to spot duty for one more season because of the presence of Floyd, Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, but he could be a bigger part of the offense moving forward.
"I feel comfortable right now," Nelson said. "I know all the plays. I've just got to cut down on the mental errors, continue to stay healthy and get my body right."
Brown had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in his return to the field after developing hamstring soreness last week as a result of sickle cell trait.
"Average," Arians said of his performance. "Didn't look like John Brown."
Floyd didn't play a bunch and did not have a catch.
MATHIEU, VELDHEER LEAVE THE GAME
Safety Tyrann Mathieu injured his shoulder and didn't return. It was believed to have happened early in the second quarter when he tackled Kelvin Benjamin after a 50-yard gain.
Mathieu was originally announced as probable to return, but he never did. He was replaced by cornerback Tharold Simon in nickel packages, until Simon hurt his ankle in the second half and also left the game.
Justin Bethel played as the fifth defensive back the rest of the way, taking over as an outside cornerback while starter Marcus Copper moved to the slot.
Left tackle Jared Veldheer injured his right arm after fracturing a finger on his right hand last week. He was replaced by John Wetzel. Arians did not yet know the severity of the injuries.
NO VIEW, NO CHALLENGE
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen only caught one pass in the game, but it was an important one. It went for 11 yards on a third-and-11, and gave Carolina a first-and-goal at the 5.
Replays showed Olsen's foot out of bounds when he made the reception, so the Cardinals likely would have won on replay challenge, but Arians said he and his staff didn't have a conclusive view of the play.
"Did you see anything on the screen where I could do that, on the big screen?" Arians said. "What television monitor did your coaches have where you could see that?"
The Panthers scored a touchdown on the series to take a 21-0 lead.