Rookie sensation Cam Newton riddled the Packers for 432 yards — just a week after throwing for a debut-record 422 yards — but tossed three interceptions. Perhaps just as importantly, he couldn't get the Panthers into the end zone on drives that reached the Packers' 5- and 3-yard lines that potentially could have given them a 21-0 lead, then failed to get touchdowns on two more drives inside the 5 in the second half.
The Packers hadn't trailed by 13 points in the regular season since Nov. 1, 2009, against Minnesota and overcame their first 13-point deficit since beating Detroit 16-13 on Dec. 12, 2004.
Aaron Rodgers wasn't particularly sharp but finished with glittering numbers: 19-of-30 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. His 84-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson with 2:14 remaining gave Green Bay a 30-16 lead.
After Carolina marched 80 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening drive, Randall Cobb ran into Ryan Taylor on the ensuing kickoff, fumbled and gave the Panthers the ball at the Packers' 26. However, Green Bay's defense stiffened on third-and-4 from the 5 and Carolina had to settle for Olindo Mare's 20-yard field goal.
The Packers went three-and-out on their next drive and Carolina had a chance to put a quick strangle hold on the game. Newton hit Greg Olsen for 34 yards to set up a first-and-goal from the 3. However, the Panthers were flagged for holding on first down to doom that drive.
Finally, the Packers got on track. A 38-yard completion to Jermichael Finley on third-and-7 was the big play, Rodgers and Finley converted another third down and John Kuhn punctuated the 80-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:58 left in the half.
That made it 13-7, and Green Bay took a 14-13 lead coming out of halftime when Greg Jennings broke wide open and Rodgers threw a perfect strike for an easy 49-yard touchdown.
Charles Woodson's second interception of the game gave the Packers a field goal, Morgan Burnett's strip of Smith set up another field goal and Burnett's interception near midfield put Green Bay in position for another field goal. Those three turnovers and three resulting field goals gave Green Bay a 23-13 lead with 57 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Just like the Panthers failed to take control of the game early, the Packers had failed to take control after the turnovers. It didn't matter, though. After the third of those field goals, Newton drove the Panthers right down the field but again bogged down inside the Packers' 5. Newton misfired on what should have been two easy touchdown passes on second- and third-and-goal from the 3, and Mare's 20-yard field goal made it 23-16.
It was the same story on the next drive. Newton converted a third-and-22 with a 32-yard completion to Brandon LaFell, then hit Smith for 20 yards and Jonathan Stewart for 15 to the Packers' 12. Newton's 9-yard completion to LaFell made it third-and-1 at the 3 but Burnett chased down Newton for a 3-yard sack and Clay Matthews flushed Newton from the pocket and tackled him at the 4 on fourth down.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.