CHARLOTTE – Fingers crossed, the hope is the Packers found themselves, their old selves, in the midst of a furious fourth-quarter rally that cut a 23-point Panthers lead to a pass completion and a two-point conversion from tying the game.
So, did they find themselves, Coach Mike McCarthy was asked?
"It's not where it needs to be. We're not in a rhythm," McCarthy said.
The Packers boss wasn't in the mood to claim a moral victory, nor was he in the mood to throw dirt on a season that began 6-0 and now finds the Packers 6-2 and tied with the Vikings for first place in the NFC North.
The Green Bay Packers traveled to North Carolina to take on the Panthers in an NFC showdown. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
Let's begin with this: The Packers became the first team in NFL history to face undefeated teams with six or more wins on consecutive weeks on the road. If you can cut through your disappointment following Sunday's 37-29 loss to the Panthers, try to digest the depth of the challenge the Packers faced in the past two games. The Panthers are 8-0 and looked very much for real against the Packers.
"We were taking some shots downfield and playing some schoolyard football. In the second half, we got to some screens and guys made some nice catches and runs," Aaron Rodgers said.
In the second half, his receivers got open. That was not always the case in Denver or in the first half against the Panthers.
"We had a good week of preparation. We had a good plan. Those two teams have it rolling right now. We feel confident if we have to come in here in the playoffs," Rodgers said.
The Packers' preparation included some new-old formations and personnel groupings. In the first half of Sunday's game, the Packers used fullbacks and tight ends more liberally, more creatively than they had previously this season. The first half included lots of scheme changes and adjustments, but the result was a mere seven points.
So what was it in the second half that got the Packers rolling?
It was likely the result of desperation.
"We just have to start a little faster. I feel confident we can do it down the line," Rodgers said.
His thoughts about the state of the Packers following consecutive losses, as opposed to when the team was 6-0 and some were saying it was the class of the NFL?
"I feel the same. We played two undefeated opponents at their place. I feel good about our football team. We're headed in the right direction," Rodgers said.
Much of Packernation would not agree with Rodgers on the Packers' direction, but it was nice to see the ball moving down the field with ease. It harkened memories of games and seasons past, when the Packers' calling card was explosive offense and an unstoppable passing game.
Against the Panthers, Randall Cobb caught a 53-yard touchdown pass. Davante Adams caught a pass for 40 yards; James Jones for 36 yards. It was almost like old times. Maybe they're about to return.