Charles Johnson carted off with apparent knee injury

AP

The Carolina Panthers’ defense took a huge blow early in the third quarter when defensive end Charles Johnson was forced from the game with an apparent knee injury.

Johnson was injured on a 12-yard carry by Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount. Replays showed New England offensive lineman Marcus Cannon delivered an illegal leg-whip to Johnson – that wasn’t called – and led to the injury. Johnson was in obvious pain on the field before walking to the sidelines.

After being looked at by the trainers, Johnson was carted from the sidelines into the locker room.

It’s a big loss for the Panthers. Johnson entered Monday night’s game with 8.5 sacks on the season.

UPDATE 11:23 p.m. ET: Johnson returned to the sidelines and was able to re-take the field late. A major injury apparently avoided for the Panthers. Johnson hit Tom Brady to force an incompletion on the Patriots’ final drive.