Packers-Panthers Turning Point Came on Second-and-26
The goal-line stop secured the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but the Packers might not have been in position to win the game without what happened on the second play of the second half.
Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur rolled the dice on the final play of the first half. Given a first down at the 1 on a Carolina penalty with 2 seconds remaining, LaFleur brought his offense back on the field to go for the touchdown.
“It was gut feeling,” LaFleur said. “I thought we were getting some pretty good push up front all game long, especially up to that point. I thought we could cram it up there for a yard and … we didn’t even give ourselves a chance.”
Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy shot between left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins to stop running back Jamaal Williams in his tracks. Rather than leading 21-10 with a touchdown or 17-10 with a field goal, the Packers left the field with a 14-10 lead but the Panthers left the field with momentum.
“That’s on us up front. Definitely not good,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said.
The momentum continued after intermission. On first down, Vernon Butler sacked Aaron Rodgers. On second down, Bakhtiari was called for holding. Suddenly, it was second-and-26 from the 9-yard line and the Packers were in a bit of trouble. Instead, Davante Adams hauled in a deep pass from Rodgers for a gain of 38. Adams beat cornerback Donte Jackson on a post-corner route. Jackson then appeared to misjudge the ball, and Rodgers’ pass floated right to Adams at about the 45.
“I think it was a big play,” Adams said. “It was a play that I had to make and it was a play that everybody was not expecting based on the down and distance. It was good to be able to convert on that and move the sticks and allow for us to go down and get a touchdown.”
Thinking back to last week’s loss to the Chargers, Rodgers on Wednesday lamented the team’s inability to make a single play to turn the momentum. The offense had only one play of longer than 17 yards and the defense didn’t force any turnovers. This play to Adams was just what the Packers needed.
On the next play, Aaron Jones blew through the middle of the Carolina defense for a gain of 28. The keys were a block at the line of scrimmage by receiver Jake Kumerow on safety Eric Reid and a broken tackle by Jones that tacked on an additional 15 yards. On the next play, Kumerow turned a short pass into a gain of 12 by running through a tackle. On the next play, the Packers were in the end zone on Jones’ 13-yard run. Bulaga and right guard Billy Turner initially double-teamed Bruce Irvin before Turner moved on to take out Luke Kuechly. That created a huge alley for Jones, who slipped through safety Tre Boston’s tackle attempt at the 6.
“They probably thought they had a little momentum going. To turn it around and go back and score was a big deal,” Bulaga said.
Just like that, Green Bay had the momentum. And an 11-point lead.
“Huge, obviously, especially sometimes it can be such a letdown going into the half, but that’s the type of quarterback we got,” tight end Jimmy Graham said. “He’s been through all these moments. Our tight end room, we’re a little older and ’Te, they’ve been through a lot and we’ve experienced moments like that. Guys came in here with the mind-set we need to go down and score. Right before the half, we proved to ourselves we can move the ball at will. We just need to go down and finish it. We were able to do that coming right out of the half. Obviously, a big moment for us.”