Despite a valiant 2nd half effort, the Carolina Panthers fell 24-16 to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night, dropping their third straight game and moving to 4-10 on the season.
Carolina started the game with the football and went three and out on their first drive after Teddy Bridgewater threw behind a wide-open DJ Moore on 3rd down.
A 3rd and 1 46-yard run by running back Aaron Jones got Green Bay going on their first drive of the night. The 7-play, 81-yard drive resulted in a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, giving the Packers an early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Bridgewater connected on a deep ball in double coverage down the sideline to Moore for a pickup of 37 yards. Two plays later, Bridgewater found tight end Ian Thomas to get another first down and move the ball inside the Packers' 22, but the offense stalled out and settled for a 36-yard field goal from Joey Slye.
The Panthers had an opportunity to get good field position by getting an early stop on Green Bay's next drive, but defensive end Brian Burns jumped offsides and Troy Pride Jr. was flagged in the back end for defensive pass interference, keeping the drive alive. Green Bay methodically worked their way down the field with the drive ending in a six-yard touchdown run by Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers rolled out of the pocket to his right and didn't see any open windows to throw the ball, but had a clear path to the end zone. Panthers' corner Rasul Douglas was locked up on a receiver and did not realize Rodgers decided to keep it for himself. Had Douglas turned his head, he would have been able to make a play before Rodgers crossed the goal line.
Down 14-3, Carolina desperately needed to get on the board with a touchdown. They leaned on the run game using a combination of Mike Davis and Rodney Smith and worked it all the way down inside the Packers' one-yard line. Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to chip away at the deficit after Teddy Bridgewater fumbled the ball while trying to go over the top on a quarterback sneak.
Green Bay capitalized on the turnover turning the game from what would have been 14-10 to a 21-3 game. Aaron Jones gashed the Panthers' defense five straight plays and trotted into the end zone untouched for an eight-yard touchdown rush. The Packers scored on each of their first three drives of the night.
Bridgewater went 0/3 on the next drive which forced another punt from Joseph Charlton. The Packers were on the move once again, but it was a big sack by Brian Burns on 2nd down that disrupted the Packers' rhythm and put them in a 3rd and long. The Panthers got the ball back with about a minute and a half remaining in the first half and instead of running the ball and getting to the half, offensive coordinator Joe Brady let Bridgewater throw it three straight times, all falling incomplete. Fortunately, the Packers were unable to tack on any more points prior to the half but went into the break with a 21-3 lead.
The Panthers' defense finished the first half by forcing two punts and began the 2nd half the same way, making it four straight defensive stops. Rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown played a huge role in the defense finding its footing by applying pressure in the backfield and registering a pair of sacks.
Carolina finally got their first touchdown on the night thanks to a 13-yard rush from Teddy Bridgewater to cut the lead to 21-10. The Panthers were going to be forced to either go for it on 4th down or settle for a field goal attempt, but got bailed out by a defensive holding penalty on Green Bay's Kevin King.
Phil Snow's defense remained red hot forcing a fifth straight punt from the league's top-scoring offense, giving the offense another chance to further cut into the lead. Teddy Bridgewater led the offense down the field after converting two third downs, one on completion to Ian Thomas, the other on the ground calling his own number. Looking to do more damage with his legs, Bridgewater stepped up in the pocket and took off to try and pick up his 2nd rushing touchdown of the day. He fumbled right at the goal line for the 2nd time on the night but was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. However, that touchdown would be called back as guard John Miller was flagged for holding, pulling his man to the ground with him as Bridgewater evaded the pocket. Carolina settled for a 22-yard chip shot from Slye to make it a 21-13 score midway through the 4th quarter.
Green Bay finally started to find some rhythm offensively in the 2nd half, giving the feeling that they were going to make their way back into the end zone and put this one out of reach. Efe Obada and Brian Burns teamed on 3rd down to wrestle Rodgers down to the ground for the sack and force a field goal try from Mason Crosby. Crosby's kick was good, extending the lead back out to two scores at 24-13 with just under four minutes to go in the game.
The Panthers quickly moved the ball down the field after DJ Moore hauled in a big 40-yard reception to keep their hopes for a comeback alive. With time not on Carolina's side, head coach Matt Rhule elected to trot out Slye for the field goal to make it a one-score game.
Although it did not end up paying off in the end, it was the right call to kick the field goal early. The Panthers only had one timeout and kicking the field goal before the two-minute warning essentially gives you a 2nd timeout.
Carolina's defense was able to successfully get the stop with just under a minute left, but the Panthers were hindered following a block in the back penalty on the punt return. They had to go 90 yards in 39 seconds and just weren't able to get anything out of that final drive.
The Packers turned Carolina over on downs and took a knee to secure their 11th win of the season.
Carolina will hit the road one final time next week to take on former Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team.
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