Panthers establish themselves as best team in NFC by beating Green Bay

An uncharacteristically bad decision by Aaron Rodgers led to an interception at the three-yard line, ending the Packers (6-2) comeback against Carolina (8-0). The Panthers raced out to a big lead in the first half, but barely managed to hang on to the lead against an experienced Packers squad.

Rodgers struggled against the Carolina defense on Sunday. (Rick Wood/Journal Sentinel)

Rodgers struggled against the Carolina defense on Sunday. (Rick Wood/Journal Sentinel)

Rodgers threw the game sealing interception as the pocket collapsed around him on fourth down. The quarterback tried to hit a wide receiver running a drag route near the line of scrimmage, and Thomas Davis went up to pick off the pass. Taking a sack was not an option for Rodgers, as a sack would have also ended Green Bay’s drive, so he had to try to make a play.

Instead the former MVP threw an interception.

Carolina was unable to burn out the clock on the ensuing offensive possession, as Green Bay forced a three-and-out. Despite the Panthers’ inability to pick-up a first down, they did manage to burn 1:48 off of the clock; which left Green Play just enough time to run one play after the punt and return.

It was a play that went know where as Rodgers hit James Stark on a five yard pass. Starks then tossed the ball to Davante Adams to try and extend the play. Adams was unable to get downfield, as he was tackled seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The fact that Green Bay only lost by eight, and had an opportunity to tie it at the end, goes to show you how good Rodgers is.

Carolina used a 24-0 second quarter to take the lead, and they never really looked back as Cam Newton was (for all intents and purposes) unstoppable. Newton averaged 9.9 yards per completion while completing 50% of his passes and tossing three touchdowns and one pick.  The young quarterback also carried the ball nine times for 57 yards with one touchdown on the ground.

Despite Green Bay’s frantic comeback attempt, the Panthers were able to hang on for the win and stay undefeated on the season. It’s pretty clear, to me, that the 2015 Panthers are the best team in the NFC.

Ron Rivera’s squad is currently is tied with Atlanta for the second best rushing offense in the league with 1,008 yards (4.3 yards per carry) — the Panther’s rushing attack accounts for 41.2% of their offensive output. Carolina’s offense grinds it’s opponents’ defense into dust, and scores just enough to defeat whomever the Panthers are playing. This puts pressure on the opposing offense, especially late in games, to move down the field quickly…and that’s where Carolina’s ability to defend the pass comes to play.

Carolina’s defense is only allowing opposing QBs to complete 57.3% of their passes (second lowest in the NFL), and 5.8 yards per attempt (lowest in the league). The Panthers smother their opponents passing attacks while consistently applying pressure to the opposing quarterback — the Panthers have recorded 20 sacks this season — and forcing 12 interceptions (through seven games). Their defense has played a major part in Carolina’s ability to remain undefeated this season, as Thomas Davis interception near the end of Sunday’s game proves.

The Panthers resume includes a come from behind win in Seattle, and holding on to beat the Packers — two of the more talented teams in the conference. Sunday’s victory over Green Bay gives the Panthers the tie-breaker for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But Carolina would have to lose two games, and Green Bay would have to win out, for the tie-breaker to become necessary.

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