It was an ugly day on the not-so frozen tundra at Lambeau Field on Sunday – gray, overcast and no sign of the sun all afternoon.
It was an uglier day for the Carolina Panthers’ defense, which also never made an appearance.
Green Bay scored touchdowns on its first three possessions – each aided by a Panthers’ penalty – and rolled to a 38-17 victory in front of a full house at Lambeau.
The only way it could have been worse for the Panthers (3-3-1) is if it had been mid-December and snowing.
Next, the Panthers face defending Super Bowl champion Seattle in a home game.
“We got the wood taken to us, and now we’ve got to go out and face another great team,” free safety Thomas DeCoud said.
The Packers (5-2) won their fourth consecutive game and improved to 35-7-1 at home since 2009.
The Panthers’ reeling defense had another day to forget, giving up 363 yards despite the Packers playing most of the fourth quarter without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers completed 19 of 22 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. His 154.5 passer rating was the second-highest of his career and wasn’t far off a perfect rating of 158.3.
The Panthers, who had the NFL’s second-ranked defense last season, have now allowed 37 points or more in four of their past five games.
The Panthers’ defensive frustrations boiled over near the end of the third quarter when middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was ejected for throwing his arm back at an official.
Green Bay tight end Richard Rodgers pulled Kuechly off a pile following a fumble the Packers recovered, then back judge Steve Freeman tried to separate Kuechly from the scrum.
It did not appear Kuechly realized it was an official behind him, and he did not make contact with Freeman.
But the ejection of the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year was emblematic of the Panthers’ day.
Kuechly didn’t make excuses for his ejection afterward.
“There was a lot going on in the game and it’s one of those situations where you have to stay calm,” he said. “You can’t worry if somebody’s grabbing you. You’ve got to keep your cool.”
Defensive penalties hurt the Panthers early in the game, allowing Green Bay to build an insurmountable lead.
With Green Bay facing a third-on-12 on its opening possession, defensive end Wes Horton and linebacker Luke Kuechly jumped offsides on consecutive plays. The flag on Kuechly nullified a Roman Harper interception and put the Packers in a third-and-2 situation.
Rodgers scrambled 3 yards for the first down, then hit Jordy Nelson for a 59-yard touchdown strike on the next play to start the Packers’ scoring.
On the Packers’ second drive, Green Bay converted a third-and-3 when the Panthers were whistled for having too many men on the field. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei didn’t get to the sideline before Rodgers’ snap as the Packers ran their hurry-up offense.
With the Packers up 14-0, DeCoud was flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact after hitting receiver Randall Cobb after a 14-yard reception. DeCoud said he thought he led with his shoulder.
Two plays later, James Starks danced in for a 13-yard touchdown run to put the Packers up 21-0 and the rout was on.
“We shot ourselves in the foot ... several times,” DeCoud said.
Despite the loss, the Panthers maintained their lead in the weak NFC South. New Orleans (2-4) and Atlanta (2-5) also lost Sunday, and Tampa Bay (1-5) had a bye.