Packers' rally falls short at Carolina

Robert Zizzo
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Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb (18) tries to make a diving catch past Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman (24) and Kurt Coleman (20) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Green Bay Packers dug themselves too deep of a first-half hole Sunday, and despite a frantic fourth-quarter rally, came up short again on the road to an undefeated opponent.

The Carolina Panthers held on for a 37-29 victory at Bank of America Stadium to remain undefeated at the midway point of the season.

The Packers, meanwhile, looked outmatched for the second straight week against an unbeaten team on the road. Green Bay fell to 6-2 and into a first-place NFC North Division tie with the Minnesota Vikings, this despite winning its first six games of the season.

It was difficult to tell which unit played worse for the Packers: the first-half offense or the defense.

The offense, which hasn’t looked up to normal Green Bay standards for the past five weeks, staggered until the fourth quarter, gaining only 235 yards and 14 points through the first three periods. Tim Masthay was the busiest man on the field, punting eight times.

The defense, meanwhile, allowed 427 total yards. This after giving up 548 and 500 in the two previous weeks. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton completed six passes of 20 or more yards.

After a forgettable first half, Green Bay looked as though it might make a game of it coming out of the halftime locker room. The Packers needed only three plays and an unnecessary-roughness penalty to cut the lead to 27-14.  Randall Cobb ran an up-and-out route out of the slot and Rodgers threw a perfect pass that Cobb caught at the 35-yard line and took to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown.

Carolina responded by forcing a punt on Green Bay’s next possession, then driving 82 yards on 13 plays for a 22-yard Graham Gano field goal to take a 30-14 lead.

On that drive, Packers starting cornerback Casey Hayward left the game and was being evaluated for a possible concussion.

The Panthers extended their lead to 37-14 with 9 minutes, 17 seconds left in the game.

But the Packers made a game out of it with a furious fourth-quarter rally. James Starks caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers and Davante Adams caught a two-point conversion pass to cut the lead to 37-22 with around 8 minutes left. After forcing a punt, Rodgers hit Richard Rodgers with a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 37-29

On Carolina’s next series, Newton threw an interception to Damarious Randall and the Packers had the ball at the Panthers’ 22 with 3:38 left. But Rodgers threw an interception with just less than 2 minutes left and the rally was over.

Carolina dominated the first half on both sides of the ball and entered halftime with a 27-7 lead.

The Panthers outgained the Packers 285 total yards to 133. Newton completed 8 of 15 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 37 more yards.

He completed four passes of at least 23 yards in the first half as the Packers often looked disorganized in the defensive secondary without injured Sam Shields and Quinton Rollins.

The Panthers scored on five of their seven first-half possessions.

Meanwhile, the Packers’ offense was anemic. Rodgers completed 8-of-16 first-half passes for 117 yards, 40 of them coming on a last-play heave to Adams as time expired in the first half.

Eddie Lacy got off to another poor start, losing a fumble and gaining only 3 yards on four first-half carries.

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