CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It wasn’t pretty.
In fact, the Green Bay Packers’ 30-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers Sunday at Bank of America Stadium looked downright ugly at times.
But if you believe that winning is all that matters in the NFL, then the Packers fulfilled the bare minimum requirement.
Most teams that start as sluggishly as the Packers did, and give up as many passing yards, and convert as poorly in the red zone, would have no chance of winning on the road.
But the Packers aren’t like most teams. They’re one of the best in the NFL, and they were good enough to overcome numerous mistakes against the Panthers and get out of town with a victory.
“Fire away, it’s all there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of his team’s many missteps and miscues. “We’ll be harder on it than you will be.”
McCarthy will have plenty of material to motivate his team this week in preparation for division rival Chicago. All he has to do is flip on the videotape of the game against the Panthers, the worst team in the NFL last season and in rebuilding mode this year with a new coach and a new starting quarterback.
There was the lethargic first quarter in which the Packers were steamrolled in first downs (10-0), total yards (171-14) and time of possession (12:33 to 2:27). They were lucky they didn’t trail by more than 13 points early in the second quarter.
There was the defense getting lit up for the second straight week through the air, this time surrendering 432 passing yards against rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
There was the offense’s failure to score touchdowns on three out of four trips inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line.
There was also a fumbled kickoff return, numerous on-field communication breakdowns, a dropped touchdown pass, seven penalties and a blown fourth-down conversion attempt near midfield.
“Not a clean game at all,” McCarthy said. “We have a lot of room for improvement.”
And yet, for as big a mess as the Packers made at times on the field, they somehow picked themselves up, scraped off the mud and found a way to win.
“It says we’ve got a pretty good team,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the Packers’ ability to win in spite of their blunders. “I’ve been on the opposite side of games like that where you play a little bit sloppy and you lose those games. So I’m proud of the way we played.”
Rodgers can be proud that the offense, for the second straight game, didn’t commit a turnover. Or that he threw for more than 300 yards and posted a passer rating above 119 for the second straight week. Or that his running backs produced 111 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries, a 6.9-yard average.
Rodgers was far from perfect, as the team’s red-zone performance can attest.
“I was a little bit off today, I've got to be honest,” he said. “I missed some throws I usually hit.”
But he was efficient enough and avoided making any killer mistakes.
The Packers' defense was in the same boat. They stumbled around at times but made key plays when necessary.
“I think the fact is we’re giving up too many big plays, yards, and too many mistakes,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “But at the same time it does show the resilience of this defense and what we’re all about and finishing to the last play.”
For all its warts, the defense forced four Panthers turnovers and kept Carolina out of the end zone three times inside the Packers’ 5-yard line.
Those are the kind of plays that win games and offset things like Carolina’s 475-yard offensive outburst.
“We can sit here and pick apart all the things that didn’t go right, but the most important thing is we finished it as a football team,” McCarthy said.
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