CHARLOTTE—Cam Newton won the yardage war but Aaron Rodgers didn't throw any interceptions, made the big play when it counted the most and the Green Bay Packers escaped Carolina on Sunday with a 30-23 win.
The game marked the first time in two seasons the Packers fell behind by more than seven points. In rallying from a 13-0 deficit to beat the Panthers, the Packers proved they can play from behind, too.
"It's a road win. They're always tough and they're always special. We're 2-0. It wasn't clean," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said in assessing the win.
The Panthers got off to such a fast start that by the time the first quarter was complete, they had controlled all but 2:27 of the clock and the Packers had only run three plays from scrimmage. The Packers might've felt as though they had ridden into an ambush.
"It was good for us. We haven't been down more than a score in a number of games. It was good to deal with that adversity," Rodgers said.
Rodgers didn't enjoy one of his best days, but he avoided turnovers, pitched a couple of touchdown passes and beat Newton's 432 yards passing with a 308-yard effort that was more about efficiency than production. Rodgers posted a 119.9 passer rating to Newton's 72.0. Three interceptions ruined Newton's day.
It was his Carolina debut. Panthers fans came to see the new face of the franchise and they no doubt left satisfied that the face of Newton's game has a nice look to it, especially for a rookie in just his second start.
"The people in Carolina should be excited about their quarterback," McCarthy said.
In the end, however, the Packers' savvy won out.
Why did the Packers win?
"Because we're a championship-caliber team that didn't panic. There are standards we play to. We got off to a slow start. We just have to play through it. That's what we did," safety Charlie Peprah said. Peprah made a touchdown-saving tackle on Steve Smith at a critical juncture in the game.
Why did the Packers win?
Because they have Charles Woodson in their secondary. Surprisingly, the Panthers tested Woodson, and he responded with two interceptions that helped turn the tide in the Packers' favor.
"Charles had a huge game," McCarthy said.
Was there a sense of panic on the Packers when they trailed, 13-0?
"Not at all. We've been in pressure situations before," Woodson said.
The pressure eased after Rodgers flipped an 84-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson just outside the two-minute warning. It upped the Packers' lead to 30-16.
"They knew we were in run-the-clock-out mode. Kind of checked to the pass and if I made a good fake, we had a pretty good chance of catching the guy on the back side," Rodgers said.
He did and the Panthers didn't catch Nelson.
Now it's on to Chicago for the game the Packers spent all last week making sure they ignored. The Bears are 1-1 and will no doubt be in desperation mode.
"We're off to a good start and we have a game in Chicago. We'll be as hard on us as you will be. We can play better, but we won the game, a game on the road. That's huge," McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Sept. 18