Didn't I just do this one last year?? Ah well. Today, let's take a trip down memory lane and discuss Green Bay's history against the Carolina Panthers. In just 20 short seasons, this has turned into a very memorable series, which the Packers currently lead 8-4.
The first game of the series, ironically enough, was not what most Packers fans wanted or hoped for. The teams met in the 1996 NFC Championship game with the upstart Panthers, in just their second year, coming in at a very formidable 12-4 record. The game was excellent but the opponent was the wrong team. During the waning minutes of the 35-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round that year, the fans, anxious for the Cowboys to come to Green Bay after years of losing in Texas Stadium, started chanting "We Want Dallas! We Want Dallas!" The Fox television cameras picked up the chants and the commentators make remarks about them as well. Sadly, though, the long-anticipated revenge game at home against the Cowboys did not happen that year when the Panthers knocked out the Cowboys the following day.
In arguably the greatest game in Dorsey Levens' career, the Packers fell behind early but rebounded to win the game 30-13 and advanced to the Super Bowl against the Patriots. It was Green Bay's first NFL Championship Game appearance since they won the titles in 1966 and 1967 and represented the NFL in the first two Super Bowls.
A year later, the Packers went into Carolina and routed the Panthers, 31-10. The teams met in Carolina again the following year. Favre threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The turnovers kept the game closer than the score would suggest, but Favre countered with five touchdown passes to Packer players as Green Bay won again, 37-30.
In 1999, the teams met in Green Bay for the first time since the 1996 NFC Championship game. This game was only decided at the end of the game. Carolina had just 13 yards rushing, but five of them came on the final play of the game, a game-winning quarterback draw as the Panthers downed the Packers 33-31. This game also featured then-Packers coach Ray Rhodes refusing to challenge a questionable go-ahead touchdown that the Panthers scored. This coming after the season-long scrutiny about the players underachieving, it meant the Packers needed to make the playoffs or Rhodes would be gone. The Packers finished 8-8, out of the playoffs, and Rhodes lost his job after just one season as Packers coach.
A year later, with new Packers coach Mike Sherman at the helm, the Packers, fresh off a rousing victory over the Indianapolis Colts, went into Carolina and proceeded to suffer their worst loss of the season, 31-14. To date, it is still the worst defeat the Packers have suffered at the hands of the Panthers.
In 2001, the Packers started off by blowing out the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins. In the third week of the season, they entered hostile territory for the first time, and scored their third consecutive blowout to start the season, winning 28-7 in Charlotte. Carolina would not win again during the 2001 season.
The next year, the Panthers, at 3-0, entered Lambeau Field. The Packers had struggled periodically on defense to start the season, but their offense began faltering against the tough Carolina defense. Midway through the second quarter, a penalty appeared to wipe out a go-ahead Packers touchdown on a tight end option throw. The booth reviewed the play, and the touchdown was upheld. Late in the game, the Packers scored another touchdown to take a 17-14 lead. The Panthers were not done, however, and drove deep into Green Bay territory, setting up what should have been a chip shot field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. Kicker Shayne Graham, however, pulled the kick and sent it wide right, gifting Green Bay an unexpected victory.
In 2004, the Packers went into Charlotte and defeated the Panthers, 24-14. Carolina was fresh off a Super Bowl appearance the year before but the Packers dug up their game plan from the 2003 season and defeated the Panthers with relative ease. As luck would turn out, the 2004 Panthers were nothing special, and the Packers, unfortunately, weren't much better. Following an early departure from the playoffs in 2004, the Packers fell apart in 2005. One of the games they lost early in that season was in Carolina. The Panthers took a 26-7 lead before the Packers began a ferocious rally. Unfortunately, the rally was too little, too late, and Carolina won 32-29, dropping the Packers to 0-4.
It would not be until 2007 that the Packers regained their swagger. Midway through that marvelous season, Green Bay faced Carolina at Lambeau Field in a game that was nicknamed the "Senior Bowl" given the ages of the starting quarterbacks (Favre and Vinny Testaverde, whose combined ages were 82 years). Green Bay won, 31-17, and went into the toughest stretch in their schedule the following two Thursdays (at Detroit on Thanksgiving, and at Dallas a week later).
Favre retired for 2008, but tried to come back. By that point, however, the Packers had moved on, and in 2008, Aaron Rodgers played the Panthers for the first time. Late in the game, the Packers led 31-28. Jake Delhomme, however, had other ideas, and a 54-yard pass to Steve Smith gave Carolina the ball at the Packers' 1-yard line. It took a few plays but the Panthers scored the go-ahead touchdown and a late interception sealed Carolina's 35-31 win at Lambeau Field.
The Packers returned to Carolina in the 2011 season. The Panthers were starting Cam Newton, and in his second career start, he gave the Packers all they could handle. This game was also marred by the career-ending injury to all-pro safety Nick Collins. Despite the issues on defense, the Packers fought back, thanks partially due to the fact that the Panthers had trouble holding onto the football. Green Bay made a few key stops, and ultimately won, 30-23. Despite the victory, it was clear the defense had issues, and the problems would remain in place for the rest of the 2011 season.
Most recently, the Packers hosted the Panthers at Lambeau Field in 2014. Carolina had won the NFC South the year before with a 12-4 record thanks to their stingy defense. The Packers, however, opened up the floodgates early, taking a 21-0 lead after just one quarter. Effectively, the game was over at that point. Although the Panthers scored several touchdowns late, these scores were merely anticlimactic as the Packers rolled, 38-17.
What are your memories of the Packers playing the Panthers?