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Cheese Curds, 12/21: Packers’ red zone defense excels as offense goes into neutral again

A rookie linebacker made the play of the game as the Packers held Carolina to 1-of-5 on red zone opportunities.

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Carolina Panthers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

While the Green Bay Packers emerged from Saturday with a “disappointing win” — those words coming from Aaron Rodgers — there are things to build on from the victory. For one thing, the Carolina Panthers have played basically every team tough over the past two months, taking the Saints and Chiefs each down to the wire in losses of three and two points, respectively.

In fact, Saturday’s game, though Carolina managed to put up 364 total yards of offense, might be the Packers’ defense’s best performance this year as that unit stepped up in critical situations. The Panthers’ offense was nothing to sneeze at, even without Christian McCaffrey — they came into week 15 ranked 9th in offensive DVOA. But Green Bay got critical stops time after time when Carolina got into the red zone, and they held the Panthers to just a 33% conversion rate on third downs.

This was certainly one of those games where the defense helped pick up the offense, much as it did in 2019 with regularity. Hopefully moving forward the offense can get out of its own way and lead the charge once again with the defense maintaining this level of play.

Packers' Aaron Rodgers: Incomplete games 'not gonna get it done in the playoffs' - ESPN
As they have done a few times in recent weeks, the offense went cold after starting out incredibly hot. Carolina was able to draw back within one possession, but expect playoff-caliber teams to make the Packers pay if they do that again.

Packers catch a break with injuries; Matt LaFleur displeased with offense |
Matt LaFleur didn't hide his displeasure after the Packers' offense was sluggish after scoring touchdowns on its first three series of Saturday's game. On the positive side, Krys Barnes and Jamaal Williams should be back to normal this week and ready to go for Sunday's game against the Titans.

Packers’ red-zone defense responds in win over Panthers |
While the offense struggled, the defense consistently got stops in the red zone after allowing Carolina to move the football a bit. The Panthers scored just one touchdown on five opportunities inside the 20 on Saturday, thanks in large part to an undrafted rookie linebacker.

Packers LB Krys Barnes' Eye Injury Not Serious |
Indeed, Barnes is good to go after making one of the biggest defense plays of the game -- swatting the ball out of Teddy Bridgewater's hands on his dive attempt at the goal line.

3 things to love from Packers’ win over Panthers | Packers Wire
One is the running game, and the Packers could have used it more in the second half to jump-start that stagnant offense. The safeties also earn a shout-out here, with Adrian Amos having another exceptional game.

Meet Megalodon, Fox camera that made splash this NFL season – The Athletic
This is incredible - a relatively straightforward Sony DSLR camera with a nice-but-not-mind blowing Canon lens, hooked up to a Frankenstein's Monster of a wireless transmission rig provided one of the coolest camera shots of the entire NFL season on Sunday.

Word of the year poll: Guardian readers describe 2020 as 'shit' | Australia news | The Guardian
Variants of the four-letter word starting with F are also common, but shit takes the cake in this poll.