Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Carolina Panthers (0-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Jim Mora
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers were impressed with Cam Newton's record-breaking debut last week. But the Panthers' rookie quarterback has never seen anything the likes of the speed and scheme the Packers will throw at him under coordinator Dom Capers. It's imperative Carolina gets RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart involved and keeps the game within reach. This is another excellent matchup for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. If the Panthers can't get to him with the blitz, Rodgers will dissect a secondary that suffered a few breakdowns last weekend.
FAST FACTS: The Packers are 5-0 in road openers under coach Mike McCarthy. ... The Panthers had 477 total yards from scrimmage last week.
COACHSPEAK: Carolina coach Ron Rivera on Aaron Rodgers — "I'll tell you what, he's impressive. I had a great opportunity to watch that tape over and over and over and see the different things that he does. He's got a lot of quality weapons out there – and not just at one position. I think the wide receiving group really is one of the better ones in the league. I like their tight ends – they are athletic guys that can get vertical and make plays. If you're not careful, you'll overlook that running game they have with Grant and Starks. They can get you. And I'll tell you a guy I'm impressed with is the fullback. I think Kuhn is really a dynamic fullback that does a lot for their team. I think their offensive line has developed very, very well. But the guy that gets it all going is Aaron Rodgers, and I'm telling you, he's done a terrific job for them. He's been a lot of fun to try and study this last few days.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy on Newton — "We're preparing for him to be a complete quarterback. I thought he did a good job in the pocket, his ability to slide and extend plays. When he comes out of the pocket, he's looking to throw, and when he does turn it up, he does have open-field running ability. He does have the ability to make the first defender miss in the open field, will attempt to do that, which is not the norm in the National Football League for a quarterback. Those quarterbacks are looking to slide. He will try to make the first guy miss and become an open-field player. But, you have to be impressed what he accomplished in Arizona with his in-the-pocket play."
GAME PLAN: As impressed as McCarthy was with Newton's record-setting pro debut of slinging the football for 422 yards, the Green Bay coaches gained some valuable insight by the end of Carolina's narrow loss at Arizona on Sunday on how to prepare for the young quarterback. The Cardinals were liberal at crunch time with their pressure packages and finally had Newton frazzled and making some poor, rookie-esque decisions with the football. He was sacked four times. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is assertive by nature with his calls but may be compelled to go hard after Newton early in the game so as not to let him get comfortable and into a rhythm on his five-step drops to make the right throws.
The Packers will have to get home on those because the Panthers have the ability to create some mismatches down the field with skillful receiver Steve Smith and playmaking tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.
Green Bay's offense also could face a heavy diet of blitzes with the Panthers' 4-3 scheme under new head coach Ron Rivera. They had Arizona QB Kevin Kolb scrambling out of the pocket several times. Aaron Rodgers is more mobile than Kolb and is lethal in making plays on the move, so he shouldn't be troubled. However, as a safeguard, McCarthy might take a page from Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and counter with a lot of quick slants and outs to pierce the soft spots of the Carolina defense, which was burned for a 70-yard, score-tying touchdown from Kolb to Early Doucet on a short cross in the fourth quarter. The season-ending loss of talented middle linebacker Jon Beason to a torn Achilles' may make it manageable for McCarthy to get the running game going with Ryan Grant and James Starks.
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