GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay Packers (8-2) stepped back into the snow globe that is Lambeau Field and handed a loss to the Carolina Panthers (5-4) in a nail-biting finish Sunday.
"That was a tough four-quarter battle. We knew it would be. You have to give the Panthers credit. We knew they were going to be a tough opponent," says Head Coach Matt LaFleur. "I was really proud of our effort. We talked going into the game about leaving it all on the field."
Packers RB Aaron Jones picked up three touchdowns in the 24-16 win over the Panthers. No. 33 has a league-leading 14 touchdowns this season—tied with Panthers opponent Christian McCaffrey.
Jones picked up 93 yards in 13 attempts.
"It's big time to bounce back and show the team we really are that last week [the Packers 26-11 loss to the Chargers] was a fluke and this is the team that we really are," says Jones.
The game went down to the last second with McCaffrey stopped just short of the end zone as the clock hit :00.
The Panthers were plagued by penalties and turnovers—a fumble and an interception—on the snowy Frozen Tundra. A light snow at the beginning of the game picked up intensity in the second half, leaving a slick cover on the field.
The Packers defense had a lot of bend, but no break against the Panthers. The defense forced the two turnovers and then had a goal line stand to preserve the win in the end. Things are far from perfect, but they will always take this result.
"I think everybody was locked in. We wouldn't have it any other way to for us to finish the game off and get some stops to secure the win," says LB Preston Smith. "That's what we came here for, for big moments like that, to execute and get our team a win."
Smith says he plans to celebrate with his team by purchasing Rolex watches for the defense.
The Packers takeaways came at big moments. First, they were gifted a fumble near midfield and then an interception in the end zone, which was also a gift from Adrian Amos to teammate Tramon Williams.
"I'm thankful Adrian's hands aren't that great, so I was able to get the interception," says Williams. "Obviously a big time play at that moment, took points off the board."
Amos says, "Glad we got it, but looks like I need to go home and get on the jugs machine and catch the ball."
There were some head scratching decisions by both teams. The Panthers went for two at the beginning of the fourth quarter but were unable to convert. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur rolled the dice on two fourth-down attempts, but they backfired on the Packers.
Linebacker Preston Smith picked up two sacks for a career high 10 this season.
WR Davante Adams topped 100 receiving yards.
QB Aaron Rodgers posted 233 yards. He had no touchdowns and no interceptions.
There's been a lot of talk about Christian McCaffrey for MVP this season. Rodgers says it's time to start talking about Aaron Jones in the MVP race.
"Well I know Christian is a very talented player and he has been mentioned in the MVP race, so maybe it's time to start talking about Aaron Jones," says Rodgers.
Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga also praised the skills of No. 33.
"He's a slippery guy to tackle. He's very low to the ground, he runs hard, and once he gets to the second level, I don't think there are too many safeties that can tackle him in the open field one on one," says Bulaga. "He's a dynamic runner so we know when he is toeing the rock, give him space and he will make guys miss."
Jones' big performance comes during the NFL Salute to Service game. It's meaningful to the running back. Jones' parents are veterans.
"Those three touchdowns were for them. And I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me and my family and everyone else. Just a little appreciation for them and I love you parents," says Jones.
The Packers have a bye week and then they head to San Francisco to take on the undefeated 49ers. They don’t return to Lambeau Field until Dec. 8 to host Washington.
"It feels really good. Obviously, we accomplished the start we wanted to get off to and now we have a chance to get healthy," says Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. "And it will be nice to get that week off. The scotch tastes better at 8-2 than 7-3."
The Packers head into their bye week with the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
"The reality is we are sitting in a pretty decent spot, but you can't take that for granted," says LaFleur. "As soon as you start getting comfortable, you are going to get beat. I know that I think everybody in our team has the urgency to press and get better every day and not take it for granted because wins are so tough to come by."
Aaron Jones said in the locker room great teams don't lose two in a row. However, Green Bay will have a bigger test after the bye when they head to San Francisco.
The Panthers take their next drive into the end zone. Christian McCaffrey matches Aaron Jones with 14 touchdowns on the season. The Panthers go for 2, but are unable to convert. Packers - 24 Panthers - 16.
The Packers are unable to score on their next drive. JK Scott punts.
Packers defense stops the Panthers from another scoring drive. Preston Smith sacks Kyle Allen to end the drive. That's Preston Smith's second sack of the game and 10th of the season. Panthers punt.
The Packers tick four minutes off the clock but are unable to score. Packers punt.
The Panthers take it down to the last second but are unable to score. Packers in 24-16.
The Packers start the half with the ball. Aaron Rodgers is sacked for a loss of seven on the first play.
A hands-to-the-face penalty pushes Packers back. On 2nd and 26, Rodgers connects with Davante Adams for a 38-yard completion.
Aaron Jones runs for 28-yards--his longest of the season.
Rodgers connects with Jake Kumerow on next play.
Aaron Jones runs it in for his third touchdown of the game. He takes the NFL touchdown lead with 14. Packers - 21 Panthers - 10.
"So after the hands to the face penalty backed the #Packers up, Green Bay gets four straight plays of 12 or more yards, Jones gets the touchdown to take over the league lead from McCaffrey, 14-13," says Action 2 Sports' Dave Schroeder.
The Panthers drive it down into Packers territory. Kyle Allen is intercepted in the end zone by Tramon Williams.
"Just this week Tramon Williams and the #Packers defenders were practicing diving at odd angles to make interceptions and grab the ball, that INT reminds me of the one Williams had to seal the win in Dallas in 2013 (that was the largest comeback in franchise history)," says Action 2 Sports' Dave Schroeder.
In this drive, Packers RB Jamaal Williams has picked up 41 yards on three carries.
Rodgers hits Adams again.
"#Packers WR Davante Adams is now over 100 yards receiving today vs. the Panthers. First time since Week 4," says Action 2 Sports producer Matt Hietpas.
Aaron Rodgers is sacked and Mason Crosby misses a field goal. A 5-yard penalty on the Panthers gives him a second chance at 47 yards. Crosby hits the field goal. Packers - 24 Panthers - 10.
Panthers start the second quarter with a 50-yard field goal. Panthers - 10 Packers - 7.
"That was a strong FG, 50 yards into a stiff wind at north end of Lambeau Field. The flags are really whipping on top of stadium, though not as much the flags on the goal posts," says Action 2 Sports' Dave Schroeder.
Rodgers connects with Allen Lazard to convert on 3rd down, but referees call pass interference on Lazard. It's a repeat third down and Packers fail on second chance to convert.
"Bad call on the OPI against Lazard but was LaFleur going to win a challenge? Probably not," says ESPN reporter and Cover 2 analyst Rob Demovsky.
Packers punt. JK Scott's punt is short.
"Scott now has 2 cold weather punts this year, and both are short. #Packers need him to regain early season form...quickly, regardless of weather," says Action 2 Sports director Chris Roth.
Panthers QB Kyle Allen fumbles and Packer Montravius Adams recovers.
"Montravius Adams in the right place at the right time to recover the Kyle Allen fumble. The Packers are 6-0 this season when recording a takeaway (and 1-2 without one)," says ESPN reporter and Cover 2 analyst Rob Demovsky.
Aaron Rodgers connects with Davante Adams for a 37-yard completion.
Packers RB Aaron Jones picks up his second rushing touchdown of the game. Packers - 14 Panthers - 10. Jones ties Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey for most touchdowns in the league. Each RB has 13.
The Packers defense steps up big--Preston Smith sacks Kyle Allen to prevent a field goal attempt. Action 2 Sports director Chris Roth says that's nine sacks this season for Smith--a career high.
Packers kick returner Tremon Smith is being evaluated for a concussion.
The Packers get a second chance after the Panthers are called for roughing the passer in the end zone. Rodgers makes good by connecting with Jimmy Graham for a 48-yard completion.
Packers LB Ty Summers is being evaluated for a concussion.
Rodgers connects with Graham for a seven-yard touchdown, but the refs reverse the call.
With two seconds left in the half, the Packers put the offense on the field to go for a touchdown. The Panthers defense stops it. Packers - 14 Panthers - 10.
"Matt LaFleur's big gamble to end the first half doesn't work. Jamaal Williams stuffed on first-and-goal from the 1 yard with 2 seconds left. Packers 14-10 instead of 17-10 after a would-be chip shot FG. They do get the ball to start the second half," says ESPN's Rob Demovsky.
After coin toss, Green Bay Packers defer and Panthers return the kickoff.
Kevin King makes a big tackle and prevents Panthers from converting on third down. Panthers punt.
Packers RB Aaron Jones picks up nine yards on first carry of game. Packers' TE Jimmy Graham called for false start penalty on second play of game. Aaron Rodgers connects with Allen Lazard to convert on third down but the pass is ruled incomplete. Packers punt.
Action 2 Sports Director Chris Roth tweets, "1st cold weather punt for Scott is a bit underwhelming. False start dooms drive--just like last week #Packers."
Panthers hit 38-yard completion deep into Green Bay territory. Panthers put first points on the board with Kyle Allen-to-Curtis Samuel touchdown. Panthers - 7 Packers - 0.
"The #Packers defense has done a good job bottling up [Christian] McCaffrey in the run game early, but the pass defense has been porous. 38-yarder to start drive and way too much cushion on goal line for Savage on the TD to Samuel," says Action 2 Sports' Dave Schroeder.
The Packers pick up 20 yards on a pass interference penalty against the Panthers.
Rodgers hits Kumerow, Lazard and Adams to move into the red zone. Aaron Jones runs it in for a touchdown. It's his first rushing touchdown in five games. Packers - 7 Panthers - 7.
QB Kyle Allen escapes at least two would-be sacks and Panthers travel back into Packers territory.
The Packers contain Christian McCaffrey for 41 all-purpose yards in the first quarter.
* 11 WR Ryan Grant
* 22 RB Dexter Williams
* 29 CB Ka'dar Hollman
* 37 CB Josh Jackson
* 61 G Cole Madison
* 67 G/T Adam Pankey
* 85 TE Robert Tonyan