Green Bay was soundly defeated in Los Angeles last Sunday in all three phases against the Chargers in a dismal performance that was worse than the 26-11 final score suggests.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said it best: “We’re kind of rolling 7-1 and starting to listen to the chatter maybe a little too much.”
The Packers offense generated just 184 yards. The defense gave up 442 yards. And the special teams had a punt partially blocked and an offside penalty that set up the Chargers offense for touchdowns. It truly was a woeful team performance.
“Well, it’s a long season and you’re going to have games like this,” said Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears head coach. “But you can’t afford games many games like that if you expect to be a playoff-caliber team. I don’t know if they were ready to play or not, but’s pretty simple really: coaches coach. Players plays. It’s in the players hands. Now, how will Aaron and the Packers respond.”
Up next are the Carolina Panthers and the NFL’s most dangerous offensive player: Christian McCaffrey. The heartbeat of the Panthers offense is just the second player in National Football League history to record six games of 150 yards or more from scrimmage in his team’s first eight games of the season.
The first? Hall of Famer Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns.
McCaffrey ranks first in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, rushing touchdowns, and total touchdowns. He is second in rushing yardage and is on pace to challenge the league records of 2,509 total yards set by Chris Johnson in 2009 and 23 touchdowns by Randy Moss in 2007. So it’s not surprising McCaffrey touches the football on 52% of Carolina’s offensive plays.
The Panthers, sans quarterback Cam Newton, are 5-3 and in second place in the NFC South, behind the 7-1 New Orleans Saints. Green Bay has a one-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, and can ill afford to lose two in a row heading into their bye week.
“McCaffrey is a special football player,” Ditka said. “He’s setting it on fire. Great vision, change of direction, can cut and stop on a dime. He’s so versatile and I don’t know if any defense can really stop him. All you can do is try to contain him.”
That’s the challenge for the Packers defense, which has struggled to stop the run this season. And a priority for the Green Bay offense will be to get their running game going with the one-two punch of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
Carolina ranks 26th in the NFL against the run, but the Panthers’ defense ranks first in sacks and second in interceptions. On offense, Kyle Allen—an undrafted free agent in 2018—has gone 5-1 since taking over the starting job for the injured Newton in Week 3.
Allen has been steady and accurate in all but one contest, a 51-13 thumping in San Francisco where he tossed three interceptions. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will no doubt scheme to pressure and confuse the young quarterback and employ the Smiths—Za’Darius and Preston—on blitz packages.
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After LA debacle, Green Bay has to rebound against Carolina with ever-dangerous Christian McCaffrey, who has recorded six games with at least 150 scrimmage yards in first eight games of season. No easy task. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams must be effective for passing game to be successful against top-flight Carolina secondary.
Packers 27, Panthers 24