CHARLOTTE – Damarious Randall made the play to give the Packers a shot at a miraculous comeback.
He almost completed the comeback himself.
"Honestly, I thought if I caught it clean I would have walked into the end zone," Randall said of his fourth-quarter interception of Panthers QB Cam Newton at the Carolina 22-yard line.
Randall cut in front of Ted Ginn on a quick out route and initially juggled the ball along the sideline. He still managed to get two feet in bounds before falling on the chalk.
"The ball actually got on me a little fast," he said. "Cam's got a cannon. I was just happy to get a pick and give our offense a chance."
The Green Bay Packers traveled to North Carolina to take on the Panthers in an NFC showdown. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
That chance unfortunately fell short in the 37-29 loss in Charlotte. The interception was the rookie Randall's second in two games, and this one helped turn around a rough day personally.
Starting in place of the injured Sam Shields, Randall was right on Devin Funchess' hip on a 52-yard completion in the second quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, he had a forgettable drive, giving up a 20-yard completion to Ted Ginn, getting flagged for pass interference on a deep ball to Greg Olsen, and then allowing Funchess to catch a 14-yard TD pass.
That score put the Panthers up, 37-14, but to Randall's credit, he shook it off and made the interception two series later that kept the comeback momentum on Green Bay's side.
"Next play mentality," Randall said. "I thought I was in great, great position to make a couple of plays. Cam just threw some perfect balls, and sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the guy.
"The plays are out there to be made. I think we're just one or two plays away from that being a totally different ballgame."
Such is the life of a cornerback, particularly a rookie. But he's proving to his teammates he has what it takes, especially mentally, to play one of the toughest positions in the NFL.
"That boy just makes plays," defensive back Micah Hyde said. "He's a playmaker. I think he was a little frustrated because he gave up a couple big plays, but at the same time, it's the NFL. Guys are going to make plays on you.
"He just kept his head in the game, made a huge play for us. Gave us a chance to tie the game."
Sideline skirmish: TV cameras caught a few Packers defenders with their emotions getting the best of them on the sidelines after Carolina's final touchdown.
After the game, the players involved were downplaying any notion there's a rift amongst teammates.
"Nothing happened," veteran Julius Peppers said.
Pressed on the issue further, Peppers wasn't going to get into details.
"It is nothing when I say it's nothing," he said. "From my point of view, it's not an issue."
The defenders certainly admitted they were frustrated out there.
"We were just real emotional," safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. "I tried to get 'Pep' to get us going, and that's what he did.
"We're all brothers in this locker room."
After allowing back-to-back 500-yard games on defense, the Packers surrendered 427 yards to the Panthers, but the point total (37) was by far the worst of the season.
A defense that was leading the league in points allowed two weeks ago has fallen into a rut. The unit can only hope the strong finish to the game in the second half of the fourth quarter is a sign of pulling out of it.
"We just have to play better. It's that simple," Peppers said. "There's not a whole lot of explanation to what's going on. We just have to play better.
"We're in a rough spot right now. We're going to keep working, we're going to get out of it. There's no doubt about that. We haven't played well the last two weeks, but we'll get it right."
Key stretch: The Packers now begin a stretch of four consecutive NFC North games, and they do so tied for first in the division with the Vikings, who are also 6-2.
Green Bay hosts Detroit next week and then travels to Minnesota. That's followed by back-to-back Thursday night games against Chicago (at home on Thanksgiving) and at Detroit.
"It will probably determine our season in some respects," defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. "This is definitely a big, what is it, 20 days? We have a lot of work to do and a short time to do it in."
Stuck: The Packers continue to struggle getting their running game going on offense. Granted, down by so much in the second half, the game tilted toward passing, but Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for only 49 yards on 15 carries for a 3.3 average.
"It's something we take a lot of pride in and when it doesn't show up and we can't execute, it's frustrating," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "It gets us in an unbalanced type of situation on offense, and we're climbing a hill. That's no good."
Injury update: After the game, it was reported that Lacy had a groin injury and cornerback Casey Hayward sustained a concussion.