clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Packers defeat Panthers 33-30 as Jordan Love, Aaron Jones overcome defensive stinker

The Packers managed to get a win, but it took a late game-winning drive after the defense blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay Packers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

On Christmas Eve, the reeling Green Bay Packers needed to come up with some holiday magic and get back in the win column if they wanted to find a way to get back in the NFC playoff race. They got some of that magic from Jordan Love and a healthy Aaron Jones, as the latter became the first Packers player to hit either 100 yards receiving or rushing in a game this season to lead Green Bay to a nail-biting 33-30 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Love had a solid day passing the football, despite not having the services of Christian Watson, Jayden Reed, or Luke Musgrave. To make matters worse, Dontayvion Wicks also left the game at halftime after taking a big hit to the chest when scoring a touchdown late in the second quarter, and Tucker Kraft left late in the fourth quarter. Still, Love threw for two touchdowns, ran for a third, and played turnover-free football throughout the game as the Packers put up 30 points in a game for the first time since week one.

They needed every one of those points from the offense, however, despite Carolina’s abysmal offensive track record coming into this game. The Packers allowed the Panthers to score 16 points by the midpoint of the third quarter, although Carolina had scored more than that in an entire game just once since week six, and then gave up two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter while holding onto a lead. Carolina tied the game at 30 with four minutes left, but Love led the Packers down the field for a go-ahead field goal with just 19 seconds remaining.

Two plays got the Panthers in range for a tying field goal, but the clock hit zero with Bryce Young trying to spike the football, and the clock bailed out Joe Barry and the defense after yet another abysmal performance. The questions about Barry’s job prospects will only get hotter this week after giving up a 30-spot to the Panthers, but for now, the Packers’ slim playoff hopes remain alive, if on life support.

The Packers deferred after winning the opening coin toss, and they got a quick defensive stop. Preston Smith sacked Bryce Young on the second play, leading to a three-and-out. However, Lukas Van Ness rolled into the plant leg of Panthers punter Johnny Hekker, drawing a personal foul for roughing the kicker and giving Carolina’s opening drive another chance. The defense did its job once again, however, not allowing a first down and getting a punt once again after an overthrown ball from Young on third down.

Early on the Packers’ first drive, Aaron Jones ripped off back-to-back runs of 10 and 13 yards as the offensive line set up cutbacks for the veteran. He picked up another 12-yard gain one play after the Packers set up a fantastic play-action pass to Tucker Kraft for a gain of 27. After Romeo Doubs drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, AJ Dillon punched the ball into the end zone from the one-yard line for an early Packers lead.

The Panthers got their first productive play on offense on their second drive. Tight end Tommy Tremble found an open spot in the Packers’ zone coverage and picked up 30 yards to get Carolina quickly into Packers territory. Three incompletions from young set up Eddy Pineiro for a 52-yard field goal, getting Carolina on the board.

It took just two plays for the Packers to get into field goal range on offense. Aaron Jones broke off a season-long 39-yard run off right tackle, then Love delivered a strike to Bo Melton for a 17-yard gain. A few plays later, facing a 3rd-and-7 from the 10-yard line, Kraft picked up 8 yards to move the chains, then after Jones was stopped two plays in a row, Love called his own number on a quarterback sneak and easily plunged into the end zone for a second touchdown. Anders Carlson missed the extra point wide left after a high snap, leaving the Packers up 13-3.

The Panthers got their first sustained drive going after the score, finding the end zone for the first time in the game. Young found gains of 19 and 17 yards to D.J. Chark and Adam Thielen over the middle, and Chuba Hubbard picked up a gain of 13 on the ground. Carolina then dialed up some misdirection, handing off to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on an end-around; with Rashan Gary losing contain, the receiver scampered in for a touchdown, closing the Panthers back to within a touchdown.

Trying to get the lead back to double-digits, Love started the Packers’ next series with a 13-yard pass to Romeo Doubs, then got another first down with a soft roughing the passer call in 3rd-and-1. On the edge of field goal range, Love could not connect with Kraft on 2nd or 3rd downs, but Carlson drilled a 53-yarder to make the score 16-10.

A second straight solid drive for the Panthers got into Green Bay territory, but Carolina faced a 4th-and-2 from Green Bay’s 38-yard line. Kingsley Enagbare read the snap count well and tracked down Chuba Hubbard in the backfield, and Van Ness cleaned up the tackle for loss to force a turnover on downs.

With four minutes left in the first half, Green Bay started their quest for a double-up around the halftime break. Melton made a pair of big catches on the drive, a 14-yarder to start the series and then an 11-yard gain to move the chains on 3rd-and-10 inside Carolina territory. Three plays later, Love scrambled out of pressure and found Dontayvion Wicks at the goal line, giving the rookie his second touchdown of the season and extending Green Bay’s lead up to 23-10.

Green Bay got another chance for points before the half after a Panthers’ 3-and-out, getting the ball back with 18 seconds and three timeouts left, and managed to get to their 45-yard line with one second remaining, but Love’s Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete short of the goal line.

An unblocked sack on Love by Frankie Luvu scuttled the opening drive of the second half, bringing Daniel Whelan on for his first punt of the game. Carolina once again drove into Packers territory and faced a 4th down, but this time Young picked it up with a two-yard gain on a sneak. Isaiah McDuffie took a roughing the passer penalty for driving Young into the ground on a hit, then Young scrambled for a nice gain to get into the red zone. Hubbard eventually punched in from four yards out, plowing through Jonathan Owens and closing the Packers’ lead down to a touchdown after Pineiro missed his PAT.

After a nice kickoff return by Keisean Nixon, Love and the Packers’ offense got an explosive play right away on their next series. Love hit Doubs for a gain of 28 yards to get into field goal range immediately, and although he fumbled at the end of the play, Josiah Deguara managed to fall on the football. Aaron Jones then picked up a couple of first downs, going over 100 yards on the ground for the first time this season. Finally, Love hit Romeo Doubs out of a trips formation for a five-yard touchdown, extending Green Bay’s lead back up to two touchdowns.

The two teams traded punts early in the fourth quarter before Carolina drove across midfield again. They then traded words and some shoves following a run by Smith-Marsette, with Carolina getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. A Preston Smith sack on first down was not enough to stop the Panthers, as Young hit Chark for 17 yards on 3rd-and-12. Chark scored on the next play, bringing in an 11-yard score from Young to push them over 20 points and close the Packers’ lead down to 8. They initially went for two, but a holding penalty on the offense pushed Carolina back to try a longer extra point, which Pineiro missed.

Once again, the Packers went 3-and-out with an opportunity to milk the clock, passing the ball twice after an early 6-yard run from Jones. After a punt, Young hit Chark for a gain of 20 and Anthony Johnson was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, then Thielen got wide open over the middle for a 17-yard gain down to the 10-yard line. Chark delivered another touchdown on the next play, as Young scrambled and hit his receiver in the back of the end zone to set up a potential game-tying two-point conversion. Rasheed Blackshear ran off the left side and snuck in to pull the Panthers even at 30.

Taking over at their own 25 with four minutes left, the Packers ran Jones twice for 6 yards to set up a 3rd and 4. Love dialed up a deep shot to Doubs, who bobbled but eventually hauled in a 36-yard reception that stood up to replay review. After the two-minute warning, Kraft picked up 20 yards as he pinballed through defenders, reaching the 13-yard line. Three runs ran the Panthers out of timeouts and took the clock down to 22 seconds, setting up Carlson for a 32-yard field goal. Carlson put it straight through the uprights, giving the Packers’ defense 19 seconds to kill to preserve the win.

After a touchback, Young dropped a perfect pass in the bucket to Chark over Keisean Nixon for a 22-yard gain to the 47. Young then hit Thielen over the middle, gaining 21 yards, but with no timeouts, the Panthers had to spike the ball to try a tying field goal, and Young’s spike hit the ground as the clock hit zero.