Brilliant third quarter put away Carolina

The Green Bay Packers won Monday night's season opener at Carolina with equal parts offense, defense and coaching.

Green Bay turned a 10-7 halftime lead into a 24-7 rout 15 minutes later by dominating the third quarter of Monday's season-opening 24-14 win. While John Fox and the Carolina coaching staff went to the Super Bowl last season and Mike Sherman and Green Bay's coaching staff were criticized for the playoff loss at Philadelphia, it was Sherman and Co. that got the better of the second-half adjustments.

Carolina never did solve Green Bay's frequent blitzes, which became clear on just the second snap of the third quarter when linebacker Na'il Diggs crept to the line of scrimmage at the snap and nailed fullback Brad Hoover a split-second after he took a handoff. Aaron Kampman recovered, giving Green Bay the ball at the Panthers' 31-yard line.

With the Panthers ready for another dose of the Packers' power running game, Green Bay went to the air. After two incompletions set up a third-and-10, Brett Favre had all day in the pocket before hitting Donald Driver for 15 yards and a first down.

Favre had a quiet night but, one player after Robert Ferguson had a touchdown catch wiped away when flagged for pass interference, he kept the drive going with another third-and-long completion to Driver. On the next play, from the Carolina 3-yard line, Ahman Green ran for his second touchdown of the night by following a dominating block by Mike Wahle of Brentson Buckner.

Carolina responded by mounting one of its best drives of the night. Helped by a huge breakdown by the Packers' secondary that allowed Ricky Proehl to gain 34 yards on third-and-9, Carolina penetrated the Green Bay 30-yard line. But on third-and-6, Jake Delhomme hit star receiver Steve Smith on a slant, but Smith took his eye off the ball and bobbled it. Cornerback Al Harris deflected the ball and linebacker Nick Barnett was there for a drive-killing interception.

Green Bay put the game away with a brilliant 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive. Offensive coordinator Tom Rossley kept the Panthers off balance on the finishing drive, mixing four passes with seven runs.

The drive started with an 8-yard run by Green. On second down, Favre faked a handoff, booted right and hit Bubba Franks for 13 yards and the first down. Green then reeled off the Packers' biggest run of the night, a 12-yard run around left end. On the play, tackle Kevin Barry lined up as a tight end on the right side, causing Carolina's defense to focus on the wrong side of the formation.

After Tony Fisher ran twice for 8 yards to set up a third-and-2, Favre faked a handoff to the right to Fisher and dumped it off to Henderson in the left flat. Favre's fake drew all three linebackers as well as safety Mike Minter toward Fisher and away from Henderson, who gained 9 yards to the Panthers' 17.

After Green picked up 4 yards, Favre dropped back for a pass, only to hand it to Green on a draw play. By faking the pass, Pro Bowl defensive end Mike Rucker sprinted up field to attack the quarterback, creating a huge natural hole for Green to exploit for 9 yards to the 4-yard line.

After an incomplete pass and a short run by Fisher, Favre rolled right, pump-faked Julius Peppers out of the way, and hit Green in the end zone for the clinching touchdown with about two minutes to play in the third quarter.

Carolina got the ball one more time in the third quarter but went nowhere. The drive ended as Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme rolled to his right — right into blitzing safety Mark Roman. Roman combined with blitzing linebacker Hannibal Navies for a 12-yard sack.

The Panthers punted and the quarter ended moments later with Green Bay in control 24-7.

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