For the second week in a row, Green Bay had a chance to prove themselves against an undefeated team on the road. For the second week in a row, Green Bay failed to live up to the task.

Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted to getting his “ass kicked” last Sunday night in Denver and, unfortunately, it was much of the same in Charlotte. The Packers could not complete the improbable second-half comeback falling short to the Carolina Panthers, 37-29.

Game Summary

Coming into this game, the Green Bay defense had given up at least 500 total yards in back-t0-back games. Well, Carolina’s offense picked up where San Diego and Denver left off. The first half was an entirely one-sided affair that saw Carolina go on scoring drives of 68, 80, 62, 20, and 52 yards, respectively. The ailing Green Bay’s secondary gave up big play after big play, including a 59-yard catch-and-run to Jericho Cotchery on 3rd and 15 that was a huge momentum swing following an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass.

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers defense showed their guns as they held Rodgers and company to seven points on seven drives in the 1st half. Here’s how the drives went: 3 & out, Touchdown, 3 & out, 3 & out, fumble, 3 & out, end of half. If you thought last week was bad, this was downright treacherous. Only two of those drives saw positive yards. The woes continued all over the offense as the offensive line struggled, wide receivers continued to get smothered in man coverage, and play-calling was as predictable as ever. This is the formula for a 27-7 halftime deficit.

Jim Biever / packers.com
Jim Biever / packers.com

The start of the second half gave signs of hope that an improbable comeback may be within reach. Less than two minutes into the 3rd quarter, Randall Cobb scored on a 53-yard wheel route and the defense held the Panthers to a 3 & out. Down 27-14, there was plenty of time to put more points on the board and bring this game within reach. Green Bay had three more drives in the quarter – all ended in punts.

With 9:27 left in the game, Cam Newton hit Devin Funchess on a 14-yard slant for a touchdown, making it 37-14 and effectively (it appeared) putting the Packers to rest. The Packers scored a quick touchdown on a James Starks screen and converted the two-point conversion to bring it to a two-score game, 37-22.

Following a Panthers punt and facing a 4th-and-14, Rodgers scrambles to his right and connects with James Jones for 36 yards on a Brett Favre-esque heave to keep the game alive. This led to a 3-yard Richard Rodgers touchdown, 37-29 Panthers. What seemed entirely unlikely was now within reach – the Packers had a chance.

“Riverboat” Ron Rivera was at it again. In one of the most confusing play-calls I can remember, the Panthers threw it on the first play and the rookie Damarious Randall intercepted it at the Carolina 26. The offense had the ball and a chance to tie it. With one last chance on 4th and goal, Randall Cobb got free on a beautifully designed pick play, a play this offense has executed over and over. Rodgers could make this throw in his sleep! There it was, a two-point conversion away from a tie game. But Rodgers missed him. He rushed his read and left Cobb too quickly. The pressure got there and Rodgers was picked off. Game over: Panthers 37, Packers 29.

Where Are the Green Bay Packers?

There is a theme here, and I’m not liking it. Mike McCarthy and his football team are playing with no passion, no energy, and no drive to win. No, this is not reactionary to two losses against two very good football teams. Losses are acceptable; No team is perfect. But it is the way Green Bay is losing games that concerns me. In fact, the way Green Bay has won games this year has concerned me.

This is a Super Bowl-caliber team. The expectations are high, yes, but fairly so. Everyone knows how good this team can be. Everyone knows how good this offense can be. And this defense, at the start of the year, showed how good they can be. But it’s not there right now. The Green Bay Packers have been going through the motions rather than putting their foot on the accelerator midway through the season.

Jim Biever / packers.com
Jim Biever / packers.com

The Packers won two weeks in a row (St. Louis and San Diego) where they were not the definitively better team that day. But they won, so it largely went unaddressed. Two weeks of rest on the bye week should have been the cure but it wasn’t. In the biggest game of the year against Denver, the Packers disappeared. They were out-coached, out-played, and flat-out embarrassed. But that was just the beating we needed, right? Good, round two.

It is rare to get the second chance opportunity the Packers had this week against Carolina. There’s no way they would come out and take a beating for the second week in a row – they haven’t had consecutive losses since 2010. What do you know? It happened. The frustration that has been mounting since Week 5 culminated into the worst start to a game Green Bay has had in the McCarthy-Rodgers era. It all came together with a sideline confrontation between Julius Peppers and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. As it turns out, maybe that is what they needed.

Now, it is about what how Green Bay responds. A 6-2 record is nothing to be ashamed of. And the Packers outplayed the Panthers in the second half. With four consecutive divisional games coming up, Green Bay has the chance to right their wrongs and reassert dominance in the NFC before heading into the home stretch. They cannot, however, do it being the same team they have been the last four games. Let’s see who the true 2015 Green Bay Packers are.

Key Stats

Total Yards: GB 402 / CAR 427

Penalties: GB 7-87 / CAR 6-45

Turnovers: GB 2 / CAR 1

Sacks: GB 0 / CAR 5

3rd Down Conversions: GB 3-14 / CAR 5-15

4th Down Conversions: GB 2-3 / CAR 0-0