Packers Fall at Carolina; Now Need a Miracle

Dec 17, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry (24) forces Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (81) to fumble late in the fourth quarter to seal the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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With five teams vying for one NFC Wild Card spot, the Packers needed a win to stay alive in the race. But even with Aaron Rodgers returning, the Packers were over-matched all day, falling 31-24 in Carolina. Green Bay had the ball with a chance to win, but Geronimo Allison fumbled on the final drive. Carolina recovered and ran out the clock from there.

The Packers have, for all intents and purposes, dropped out of the playoff race with their seventh loss. They essentially need Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit and Dallas to all choke the last two games to earn a postseason birth.

MVP

Damarious Randall. Devin Funchess was averaging 4.8 catches and 81 yards per game the five weeks leading up to today’s game. Randall, who followed Funchess most of the afternoon, held him to just one catch for 19 yards on four targets. In fact, the Green Bay secondary was solid all game. Cam Newton had a good passing line but 81.8 percent of his yards went to the tight end Greg Olsen and the two running backs.

LVP

Green Bay’s long shot playoff hopes hinged on Rodgers being Rodgers and he just was not that guy. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, especially against the blitz, and was strangely inaccurate. His final line of three touchdowns, three interceptions and 6.4 yards per attempt were more reminiscent of what Brett Hundley posted the previous eight weeks. Given that all hype for the Packers’ ability to steal a Wild Card spot was built around Rodgers elevating the Green Bay quarterback position, his performance in such a crucial game left a lot to be desired.

Key Stat

The Panthers blitzed Rodgers on 58.5 percent (31 of 53) of his dropbacks today, according to Pro Football Focus. The pressure clearly rattled him, too, as his 57.8 completion percentage was the lowest of any game this season (aside from week six when he threw just four passes before getting injured). All three of Rodgers’ interceptions came when facing blitz.

Looking Ahead

Green Bay will be mathematically eliminated if Atlanta wins tomorrow against the Buccaneers. In that scenario, the Packers will be in unfamiliar territory of playing spoiler to division rivals the last two weeks. But if Atlanta loses and Green Bay wins out, they would need Seattle, Dallas and Detroit to each drop one of their last two. Then, they would need Atlanta to lose out, as they hold the tiebreakers. Basically, Packers fans have to do some praying that four teams choke down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the Packers get the now-NFC North champion Vikings at home next week in prime time. The Vikings will be playing for a first round bye and the Packers will try and get a small measure of revenge for Anthony Barr‘s (legal) hit that ultimately cost Rodgers 7.5 games.

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Full Press Coverage NFC North. Like and

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