Carolina’s all-out sprint to the postseason continued Sunday with a 31-24 victory against the Green Bay Packers:
1. The Christian McCaffrey show – and Cam Newton with the assist
Carolina’s first drive was all rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, with the assist from quarterback Cam Newton.
McCaffrey had 60 all-purpose yards and a touchdown on Carolina’s first drive of the game. Newton kept the drive alive on a long third down with a 9-yard scramble.
Newton also threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns.
2. Captain Munnerlyn a healthy scratch
Nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was a healthy scratch on Sunday afternoon, just four days after he walked out of practice.
In his place, Carolina played cornerback Kevon Seymour, safety Jairus Byrd and safety Colin Jones in the “big nickel” Frog package.
3. Worley goes back to back
Pressure on Aaron Rodgers from defensive tackle Kyle Love forced the Packers quarterback to lob a pass downfield off his back foot, and it was underthrown. Cornerback Daryl Worley captitalized with his second interception in as many weeks.
4. There’s a “but”...
Worley’s interception gave the Panthers the ball back on their 39, but they had to settle for a field goal.
In the third quarter, Carolina was able to score a touchdown following an interception by Colin
5. Greg Olsen goes off
After he was all but absent production-wise in his return to Bank of America Stadium from injury last week, tight end Greg Olsen became a difference-maker on Sunday.
Olsen scored a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter that put Carolina up 17-14.
He finished the game with nine catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
6. Left Cheek Rule
Following Jones’ interception, Newton fired an end zone shot to receiver Damiere Byrd that was at first ruled incomplete.
After review, officials ruled that Byrd made the touchdown catch – which appeared to be a catch by the left side of Byrd’s behind getting down in-bounds.
“#LeftCheekDown” began trending on Twitter following the ruling.
7. Bradberry matches Worley – again
Just like last week, cornerback James Bradberry followed up Worley’s pick with one of his own on an underthrown Rodgers ball in the third quarter.
The two corners now have two picks apiece this season. Carolina went three-and-out following the interception.
8. Rodgers under pressure
Aggressive playcalling by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks allowed Carolina’s front seven to pressure Rodgers often. Two of Rodgers’ three picks were underthrown balls due to getting forced backward and making a back-foot throw.
Sunday’s game was the return of Rodgers from injured reserve (broken collarbone). He finished with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
9. Twice as nice for Byrd
Byrd liked scoring his first career touchdown so much in the third quarter, he scored another one in the fourth on a 13-yard catch that put Carolina ahead 31-17.
10. Crucial sacks
Star Lotulelei and Thomas Davis combined on a sack to force a fourth and 14 with 5:46 to play, and the Packers down 31-17.
Defensive end Julius Peppers, a former teammate of Rodgers, combined with Mario Addison to sack the quarterback on the next play. The two are tied for the team’s lead in sacks with 10, and Peppers became the fourth player in NFL history with at least 10 seasons with 10 or more sacks.
11. Bradberry and Adams seal it
An untouched Richard Rodgers cruised into the end zone with 2:43 left to play to narrow the Panthers lead to 31-24. An onside kick bounced through McCaffrey’s arms as he tried to fall on it, and the Packers recovered.
On the following drive, Bradberry forced a fumble near the Panthers’ 30 and safety Mike Adams recovered to seal the game. It was the team’s fourth takeaway of the day.