Pete Dougherty and Aaron Nagler look at the road ahead for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after their loss to the Panthers in Carolina. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Midway through the third quarter of Green Bay’s game Sunday at Carolina, officials overturned Panthers receiver Damiere Byrd’s incompletion and ruled it a touchdown after it was determined his rear end landed in bounds.
Officials initially ruled incomplete because they determined on the field that Byrd landed out of bounds. Byrd bobbled quarterback Cam Newton’s pass but regained control before falling to the ground. Replay review showed Byrd’s rear end, the first body part to touch the ground, landed in the end zone before his back fell onto the end line.
“The first thing to hit the ground was a body part inbounds,” referee Craig Wrolstad said after the game. “His rear end hit inbounds. Just a small part of his rear end needs to hit inbounds for it to be considered inbounds. He maintained possession of the ball all the way throughout the end of the catch. So we reversed it because we had clear and obvious evidence that he had possession of the ball and was down by contact in the end zone.”
The touchdown gave the Panthers a 24-14 lead. Considering the Packers lost by a touchdown, the four-point difference between touchdown and field goal had a significant impact on the game.
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Receiver Jordy Nelson said he didn’t take issue with the overturn.
“I think that last angle gave it to him,” Nelson said. “His butt was down in the end zone, and he caught the ball.”
Forgotten man: Aaron Jones’ first carry Sunday was a 20-yard gain. His second gained 23.
It was the type of explosive running the Packers rookie has shown when healthy. Jones, with his slashing style, is a big-play tailback. Which made it surprising when Jones only got one more carry the rest of the game.
Jones led the Packers with 47 yards on only three carries against the Panthers.
His 15.7-yard average dwarfed starting running back Jamaal Williams, who finished with 30 yards on 10 carries. A careful rookie, Jones did not lobby for more touches after the game.
“Jamaal has been hot,” Jones said, “and you feed the hot hand. I agree with them. I’m proud of him.”
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Jones appeared to have the hot hand Sunday. Regardless, Jones said he’s happy filling whatever role the Packers ask.
“Of course, anybody would like to see the ball more,” Jones said. “I’m in the flow of the offense, and I’m just doing what I’m asked of. I appreciate my role.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were taking advantage of a couple of run-pass options that looked good against the Panthers’ front, but in the second half Carolina loaded the line of scrimmage with blitzers on almost every down and Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy decided not to test them on the ground.
“He’s a good runner and we need to get him more opportunities,” Rodgers said. “I think some of the fronts that they were giving us kind of dictated us going away from the run a little bit.”
Just for kicks: It wasn’t a picture perfect kick and didn’t necessarily go to its intended target, but kicker Mason Crosby’s onside try late in the fourth quarter had the desired result.
The Packers had just scored to cut the lead to 31-24 with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left. Everyone in the stadium knew an onsides kick was coming so Crosby had to do everything he could to make it bounce in such a way that the Panthers would have trouble fielding it.
“On that field, getting the ball on the ground was ideal,” Crosby said of the type of kick he used. “When it came off my foot, it looked like it bounced to the right a little bit.
“A lot of guys come up and block and the guy behind them get it. It went right past those guys. I was hoping it would get on the ground.”
Rookie Christian McCaffrey went down to field it, but it scooted past him and safety Marwin Evans pounced on it on the Packers 48-yard line.
“The guys did a great job just getting to it,” Crosby said.
Peppers’ revenge: At the time, it looked like Julius Peppers would have the last word.
With 5:46 to go in the fourth quarter and the Packers down by 14, Peppers sacked Rodgers on fourth and 14 at the Carolina 40-yard line. After having a quiet game, Peppers came screaming around right tackle Jason Spriggs and hit Rodgers from behind.
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“He’s a Hall of Famer,” Spriggs said. “He got me. It is what it is. He got me with an outside swipe. I thought I did a pretty good job handling him most of the game. But he’s a good player. He’s got a lot of sacks over his career."
Peppers could have taken a brutal shot at the unsuspecting Rodgers, but he put him in a bear hug and then wrestled him to the ground. After the play, his former teammate patted him on the back and congratulated him on the play.
“Julius Peppers and I have been teammates and there is a close friendship there,” Rodgers said. “We talked at length before the game and talked after the game. He’s just one of those guys you really enjoy playing with. Just paying respect.”
BOX SCORE: Panthers 31, Packers 24
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Injury update: Outside linebacker Nick Perry exited in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.
Perry entered Sunday’s game questionable with foot and shoulder injuries, but he was active. Without Perry, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks got extensive playing time. Brooks finished with a season-high five tackles, including one tackle for loss.
“I won’t say it was my best game,” Brooks said. “I had more tackles — probably more quarterback pressures — than I have had all season.”