Play of the day
This play encapsulated much of what happened. Green Bay came out running with Eddie Lacy gaining 7 yards on first down and 3 yards to move the chains on second down. After a sack and a short completion to Randall Cobb, the Packers faced third-and-12. The Panthers, who were guilty of far too many self-inflicted wounds, jumped offside on back-to-back plays, turning it into third-and-2, which Rodgers converted with a 3-yard scramble. That made it first-and-10 from the 41.
Lacy and tight end Andrew Quarless lined up in the backfield, with Davante Adams wide left, Nelson wide right and Randall Cobb in the right slot. Rodgers’ play-action fake drew in the linebackers, not that it mattered. Antoine Cason, Carolina’s top cornerback, lined up just a couple yards off the line of scrimmage against Nelson. Nelson got an inside release and immediately got behind Cason. It looked like Cason was expecting some help from safety Roman Harper but the 31-year-old Harper didn’t have a prayer. Cobb also ran vertically up the middle, which froze Harper. Then Rodgers threw the ball on a line to ensure that Harper would be hopelessly late.
From this point, it’s a near-replay of the Jets game. In that game, Nelson beat ace cornerback Dee Milliner, caught a deep pass and cut inside of first-round safety Calvin Pryor for a sprint to the end zone. On this one, Nelson caught the ball at the Panthers’ 39-yard line and cut inside of Harper at the 30. Nelson jogged the final 12 yards.
“We had Jordy out there and had a play action to his side, not sure if that held the safety at all,” Rodgers said. “But when I came up off the fake all I saw was that Jordy had slipped his defender and they were playing a cover 2 outside, and was able to put it in the right spot, and then he does the rest.”
Player of the day
Who else but Rodgers? He threw as many touchdown passes as incompletions (three), and his 154.5 passer rating was the third-best of his career and flirted with NFL perfection (158.3).
Cobb was great, though. The Packers took a 14-0 lead on a drive started with Cobb’s 14-yard punt return to the 42, and he raced 16 yards on a bootleg to set up the touchdown. His 14-yard reception was part of Green Bay’s third touchdown drive, and he delivered a key block on James Starks’ 13-yard touchdown. Cobb’s 47-yard catch-and-run set up his 3-yard touchdown reception that made it 28-0. In between those plays, he made a key block that helped Rodgers convert a third-and-12 with a 16-yard scramble. On Green Bay’s final touchdown drive, his 33-yard catch-and-run on third-and-6 came just before Davante Adams’ 21-yard reception.
All told, Cobb caught six passes for 121 yards and one touchdown, ran once for 2 yards and returned two punts for 38 yards.
Gazing into the crystal ball
This is a big win. Who knows if the Panthers are good, bad or somewhere in between, but they are the defending NFC South champions. The Packers had lost six in a row to teams that make the playoffs in that season, and Carolina – Sunday’s loss notwithstanding – is in first place and on course to make the playoffs.
“We have a lot of respect for Ron Rivera and the program he’s built there and what they have as a football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We looked at this as a big challenge today as the week of preparation went. I’m a big believer in things that happen Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday lead to what goes on on Sunday. I thought the flow, the energy, the preparation -- we got after it on Thursday. Things weren’t as clean as you like and we did some extra things to get that cleaned up. We improved as a team today. That’s the biggest thing I look for. You’ve got to grow with every opportunity and we did that today, not only in the win column but what we were trying to accomplish.”
Can Green Bay’s annual October dominance extend for one more week, which would get it to 6-2 entering the bye? The Packers visit New Orleans on Sunday night. The Saints, who were considered strong Super Bowl contenders entering the season, are 2-4 after losing late at Detroit. The potential snag for Green Bay could be tight end Jimmy Graham. The Packers gave up nine catches to Chicago’s Martellus Bennett and eight catches to Carolina’s Greg Olsen. And there’s no doubt the Saints will be a hungry, hungry bunch with their season perhaps at stake. On the other hand, the Saints are allowing 27.5 points per game and Green Bay’s offense has gotten in gear.
Numbers worth noting
0: Interceptions thrown by Aaron Rodgers, the sixth consecutive pick-free game. That ties Bart Starr’s franchise record, set in 1964.
1: Green Bay had one takeaway and no giveaways, giving it a plus-1 turnover margin. Packers are plus-10 in the last five games, including plus-8 during the four-game winning streak.
2: Rodgers joined Tom Brady (2007) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with four consecutive games of three-plus touchdown passes and no interceptions.
3: First-quarter touchdowns by the Packers.
4: Consecutive victories by the Packers. They’ve had a winning streak at least that long for each of the past six seasons, the longest active streak in the league.
5: First-quarter yards by the Panthers.
8: Touchdown receptions by Randall Cobb, the most by a Packers player in the first seven games of the season since Billy Howton had nine in 1956.
10: Consecutive victories by the Packers in October since losing at Indianapolis on Oct. 7, 2012. In those 10 games, Rodgers has thrown 27 touchdown passes and one interception.
18: Rodgers is the only player in NFL history with at least 18 touchdown passes and zero or one interceptions in his first seven games of a season.
20: Missed tackles by Carolina’s defense through the first drive of the second half, when Green Bay scored to take a 35-3 lead, by Packer Report’s unofficial count. By ProFootballFocus.com’s count, the Panthers entered the game missing 6.8 per game.
68.5: The difference in passer ratings between Green Bay (150.5 with Rodgers and Matt Flynn) and Carolina (82.0 with Cam Newton and Derek Anderson). For the season, the Packers are plus-39.3. That’s the best figure in the league.
108: Rushing yards allowed by the Packers. After a four-game average of 176.0 rushing yards per game, Green Bay has yielded 111, 112 and 108 rushing yards in the last three.
121: Receiving yards by Cobb. By Packer Report’s count, 85 of those came after the catch.
122: Rushing yards by the Packers. For the first four games, they rushed for 80, 80, 76 and 56 yards. In the last three, they’ve rushed for 156, 121 and 122.
192: Consecutive passes without an interception by Rodgers, the longest streak of his career. Starr holds the record with 294 consecutive passes, spanning the 1964 and 1965 seasons.
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