The Green Bay Packers scored fifteen fourth-quarter points to nearly overcome a late 23-point deficit, but ultimately fell four yards short of potentially tying the game in a 37-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers improved to 8-0 and remain the NFC’s lone unbeaten team. Meanwhile, Green Bay lost its second straight game to fall to 6-2 and into a tie with the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North lead.
After an abysmal performance in Denver last week, the Packers looked just as bad for most of the game against Carolina. Green Bay held a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter after a Richard Rodgers touchdown reception, but things began to unravel for the Packers after that.
The Panthers had five possessions in the second quarter resulting in three touchdowns, a field goal, and a missed field goal. Carolina outscored the Packers 24-0 in the quarter to build a 27-7 lead heading into the half. Were in not for a few inaccurate throws from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Carolina could have easily added two more touchdowns.
But the poor second quarter was not entirely the fault of the defense. Green Bay’s offense had a total yardage of negative one in the quarter, and running back Eddie Lacy continued to struggle by losing a fumble.
Despite the early domination by the Panthers, the Packers came out fighting after halftime. Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb for a 53-yard touchdown on Green Bay’s first possession of the second half just a minute into the quarter, bringing the deficit back to just two scores.
After Carolina scored its final touchdown, Newton’s fourth total score of the game, midway through the fourth to extend the Panthers’ lead to 37-14, it looked like the game was out of reach. But Rodgers and the Packers’ offense got hot and nearly came back to tie the game.
Green Bay responded by going 79 yards in just a minute and a half, capped off by a James Starks 29-yard touchdown reception. The defense forced a three and out, and then the Packers went 72 yards in 2:38 to cut the lead to just eight on Richard Rodgers’ second touchdown of the day.
The Packers still needed a miracle, and they almost got one. The Panthers inexplicably passed the ball with its one possession lead, and cornerback Damarious Randall intercepted Newton on the first play of the drive to give Green Bay the ball at the Carolina 22-yard line.
But that’s where the luck ran out for the Packers. On fourth and goal from the four-yard line, Rodgers was intercepted by Thomas Davis to essentially end the game.
Rodgers finished the game completing 25/48 passes for 369 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The offensive line afforded him little protection throughout the game, allowing five sacks and failing to help establish the ground game.
Despite the good numbers from Rodgers, the offense was ineffective for most of the day. Starks and Lacy combined for just 49 yards on the ground, and the imbalanced attack was a big reason for the Packers’ struggles.
Cobb led the receiving corps with 99 yards and a touchdown, while Davante Adams had his best showing of the year with 93 yards on a team-high seven receptions.
Newton completed 15/30 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and added 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Panthers. After the Green Bay defense went 42 straight games recording a sack, they have now gone two straight contests without one. Running back Jonathan Stewart was held in check, managing just 66 yards on 20 carries. Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen and Corey Brown scored through the air for Carolina.
The Packers now will need a lot of help if they want the NFC playoff race to go through Lambeau Field. Carolina has a two game advantage and owns the tiebreaker now.
More pressing for Green Bay should simply be securing the division. After the Vikings’ victory over the Rams, the two teams now sit tied for first at 6-2.
The Packers will look to rebound from back to back poor games as they host the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field next week. Since the Broncos game did not appear to light a fire under the Packers, let’s home the loss to the Panthers serves as a wakeup call for a Green Bay team that needs to get back to its winning ways entering a crucial stretch of four straight games against the NFC North.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .