On the road, needing a win to stay in the division race the Carolina Panthers did something they hadn’t done in weeks – they started fast.  The problem was that they didn’t keep it up.

Leading 21-10 at the half, it looked like they were on their way to a blowout victory.  The defense took a breather, however, and gave up 18 straight points including a 95-yard drive and a two-point conversion that tied the game at 21.

Two big passes to Steve Smith and a goal line stand would be the difference.

First, Smitty with a huge play to the one yard line that led to a DeAngelo Williams touchdown, his third of four on the day.

Next, an even bigger stop at the one yard line that forced Green Bay to put up three instead of 6 to take a 31-28 lead.

Then, Mark Jones would return the kickoff to the Carolina 45 with only 1:45 remaining.  Jake Delhomme put up another bomb to Smitty, again at the one yard line, setting up D-Will’s fourth scoring run.

There are issues that need to be addressed and quickly – the offense needs to be able to run more consistently.  After chewing up yardage on the ground in the first half, the ground game looked anemic in the second half.  More importantly, the defense must improve versus the pass.  The pass rush disappeared on Sunday and 438 yards of offense is just unacceptable.  And 76 points in two weeks is far from acceptable.

Lucky for the Panthers, it’s a 35-31 victory leading to a 9-3 record and a dead heat heading into a home showdown on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Here are some random thoughts from the game:

  • Two early fumbles could have sunk Carolina.  Moose had one on the first play from scrimmage recovered by Green Bay.  The second, by Jonathan Stewart, was recovered by a hustling Travelle Wharton at the 2 yard line setting up a touchdown.
  • Going to the locker room, the Panthers had done their jobs and the Green Bay fans were booing.
  • Aaron Rodgers looked extremely sharp in the second half and ate up the Panthers secondary.
  • Julius Peppers managed two sacks on the day but committed one of the dumbest penalties at a crucial time you’ll ever witness.  With Rodgers clearly out of bounds, Peppers lowered the boom and was called for a personal foul.  Green Bay had been backed up with a first and goal at the 15 prior to the hit and were suddenly at the 7.
  • Ken Lucas seems to be the weak link in the secondary as teams constantly pick on him.
  • Steve Smith had no catches in the first half but finished the game with 4 catches for 105 yards.
  • After four straight games over the century mark, DeAngelo Williams was held to less than 100 yards.
  • Still, getting off the field on third down, is a major issue for the defense.  The Packers were 8 of 16 on third down.
  • Carolina had only two penalties called on them in the game.  There were no false starts.
  • Could somebody tell Mike Trgovac that bend but don’t break doesn’t work?  The Packers bent this defense today and it nearly cost Carolina the game.
  • For the second time this season, Jon Beason came up with a crucial late-game interception.