Packers vs. Panthers: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 30-23 Win Over Carolina All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers gave the Green Bay Packers a serious upset scare at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, as the rookie quarterback helped give the Panthers a 13-0 lead in the first quarter before the defending Super Bowl champions found their footing and took over in the second half. Three turnovers to start the second half helped the Packers score 16 points in the third quarter, and Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for an 84-yard touchdown pass that put the dagger in the Panthers’ upset bid.

Here are five observations from the Packers’ Week 2 win:

1. Concern in the secondary 

Many were quick to attribute the Packers struggles on defense in Week 1 to playing a passing magician in Drew Brees, but the fears were confirmed against  Newton and the Panthers. You could probably count 10 or so occasions where the Panthers had receivers wide open for completions. Newton spared no one, as Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews and Erik Walden were all beat. It all equaled another 400-yard passing day against the Packers defense, who now ranks 32nd in the NFL in passing yardage.

Add in the fact that safety Nick Collins will miss the year due to a neck injury, and there are legitimate concerns in the Packers pass defense. There’s no way to sugar coat it two weeks into the season. They need to be better for the Packers to reach their high expectations in 2011.

2. Starks emerges

If there was any doubt going into Carolina who should be the Packers No. 1 back, James Starks erased them with a nine-carry, 85-yard day. He also caught three passes for 30 yads. While Ryan Grant is the established veteran in the equation, Starks simply looks like a better running back at this point. I’ve said all along—Starks just runs angry. That violence ensures he never goes down on the first hit. Grant can still be used in certain situations, but Starks deserves at least an 80-20 share of the touches until he shows otherwise.

3. Covering running backs

For the second straight week, the Packers were unable to get a hold of running backs in the passing game. After watching the Saints back field catch 11 passes for 112 yards—seven and 75 coming from Darren Sproles—the Packers allowed Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to haul in 12 passes for 123 yards. Stewart alone caught eight balls for 100 yards.

Think the Bears haven’t seen that on film? Matt Forte has 15 catches for 205 yards and touchdown already in two games this season. Mike Martz will come up with ways to get Forte alone on linebackers next week.

4. Woodson changes the game

The soon-to-be 35-year-old has likely lost a step since coming to Green Bay, but there’s very few defensive players in the NFL as instinctual as Charles Woodson. Those skills were on display against the Panthers.

The first of his two interceptions was more a result of a bad throw from Newton, but Woodson still made an athletic play to catch the ball before it hit the ground. His second pick is where the instincts showed. Newton was hurried from his right and tried fitting the ball into Steve Smith off his back foot, but Woodson wisely undercut the route and likely would have went the distance had he kept his feet underneath him. He later recovered a fumble after Smith showed every young football player how not to hold the football. Those three plays turned the game in the Packers favor.

5. Aaron Rodgers makes the plays

I think Rodgers would be the first to admit that he missed a handful of throws on Sunday that he normally makes in his sleep, especially early on. But like an elite quarterback does, Rodgers made the throws that the Packers absolutely had to have. The highlights show Rodgers’ 49-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings and the 84-yard score to Nelson, but the biggest throw he made in the game came in the first half.

After running just three plays in the first, Rodgers found himself with the ball down 13 points on the Packers’ first possession of the second quarter. Facing a third-and-seven from the Packers’ own 23-yard-line, Rodgers scrambled and found Jermichael Finley down field for 39 yards and first down. That allowed Green Bay to continue their march, which eventually ended in a John Kuhn touchdown. Who knows where that game goes without his throw to Finley. The Packers likely punt, and the Panthers’ red-hot offense comes back with good field position and after just three plays on the sidelines. That may have led to another score that could have potentially put the Packers in too deep of a hole to climb out of. Instead, the Packers pulled to within six and the game was on from there.


Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on


12 thoughts on “Packers vs. Panthers: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 30-23 Win Over Carolina

  1. Of all the points you made the 10 or more plays where Carolina receivers were wide open concerns me the most. Very reminiscent of the Arizona play-off game. I’m trying to figure out why the Capers D seems to have taken a step backwards. Plus the linebacker play has to improve.

    What a headache opposing D coordinators must have now having to factor Starks into the equation.

  2. On Starks-I know I’m in a minority (probably of one!) but he’s getting 60% of the carries and the bulk of the snaps (37 to 16 @ Panthers I believe don’t have figures for v Saints) and I’m happy with that. It’s not as if Grant is running particularly poorly and it is Starks first full NFL season I’d like to see him finish it like he has started. I love watching him run but while we’ve got experienced reliable back up we may as well use it and keep JS relatively fresh. I’d like to see us run the ball more whoever gets the touches…

    Williams back will help the secondary but Burnett has big shoes to fill at FS and the secondary is a big worry. Apart from anything else if we are struggling in coverage that limits Capers creativity.

    Also agreed about the worry with Forte next week-could be a get out of jail card for Cutler and the O-line. No obvious quick fixes either…Does Brad Jones see the field for Walden again ?

  3. Peprah seemed to do OK last year. Burnett is essentially a rookie, but shows promise. I’m guessing The Dom can work some magic with these guys. I’d like to see some more vocal leadership on D from Hawk or Mathews. Someone needs to be the field commander.

  4. Zach, you nailed a big prolem. Pass completions for big yards from the back field. Your stats prove this to be a significant part of the D’s problems. 235 yards – 23 catches – a little over 10 yards per catch. That almost 30% of all passing yards in two games. Stop that and I guarentee the DB will perform better.

    This is caused by three main issues. First, CM3 is not playing LB. He is playing a rush end in the 4-3. He is going on virtually every play. Only his superior talent is allowing him to get to or close to the QB. He’s doubled up constantly. While he’s rushing the screen right is wide open. The Corner on that side must break up the play. They have not proved they can even force the play in yet alone stop them.

    Next, Walden stinks. He’s trapped inside on almost every play. He is solely responsible for the play developing. Jones deserves a shot.

    Next, the whole D with a few exceptions can’t tackle for some reason. Dom, why are you tolerating that. Shields is playing so bad he couldn’t tackle my arthretic, decaying, overweight, slow – really slow mass of blubber.

    Add to that TE’s catching 8 for 146 and you’ve got 471 yards given up by LB’s. I’m not adding the safeties to the responsiblity because they’ve playing an almost exclusive cover 2 in the first two games. That’s over half of the passing yards. This is where the control of the game is taking place. In other words, deep coverage has been ok, not great but ok. The problem is in the LB’s. How they are being utilized and and how they are playing indivdually.

    Dom, the ball is in your court. Don’t let Forte go unattended. I’m affraid you’ll need CW shadowing him. None of the LB’s can handle him one on one.

    1. Excellent points Ron, thanks. Just another trickle down effect of losing Jenkins/Neal and thereby having to commit & reduce our most talented defensive player (CM3) to a mostly singular purpose of rushing the passer. It appears that we are hogtied & checkmated without a DL passrush, at least until Capers creates more magic with his clairvoyance.

  5. Opps! that should have been 381 yds for approximatly 45% of all passing yds. The concept remains the same

  6. After thinking about it a little more, Dom does have to make some changes to the way he is covering TEs IMO. This will not be as big of a factor for the Bears game, but the TEs in this league are just too athletic to expect a 3-4 OLB to cover them for any length of time. The safeties or extra corner have to be called on to take those assignments the vast majority of the time.

    On the tackling issue: Don’t you think the new rule only allowing teams to have 1 contact practice a week might have something to do with that? Owners gave that up in a heartbeat to keep a bigger piece of the pie. It was a win/win for the owners and players, but a lose/lose for fans who want to watch good football.

    I think it was funny that the most textbook tackle of the entire game was considered illegal. Desmond Bishops rushing the passer penalty could be shown as a demo for every pop warner and highschool team in the country. head up, drive through the player, chop the legs.

    the nfl is going to bastardize itself and become more similar to the travesty that is called the NBA.

    1. FMM, your conclusion is scary, but all too possible. How long before QB’s, WR’s TE’s and RB’s are wearing flags around their waist. At least we’ll have all those historic NFL films to watch.

  7. That’s the Bear games I remember. Too bad Mark Lee and Stills aren’t avbailable this week. Did you notice how everyone got involved. Greg thought a win was smashing as many Bears as possible. Score what score. Good old Zorn! Haven’t thought about him in a while.

    If greg didn’t think you were agressive enough he’s come after you himself. He really hated Ditka fromhis playing days.

    If Goodel saw hits like any of those he’d be overcome with the vapors. Pink Panty wearing pansy!

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