Breaking down Packers’ 33-30 win over the Panthers in Week 16

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Breaking down Packers’ 33-30 win over the Panthers in Week 16

The Green Bay Packers snapped a two-game losing streak and kept their season alive with a dramatic 33-30 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. The victory featured a blown 14-point lead and a career-best performance from rookie Bryce Young, but the Packers are returning home with the only thing that matters: a victory.

Now 7-8, the Packers have given themselves a chance to win the final two games and sneak into the postseason.

Here’s what went right, what went wrong, what it means and what’s next for the Packers after Sunday’s 33-30 win:

What went right

  • The offense scored 33 points, the team’s most since Week 1 in Chicago. The Packers scored on their first four possessions, built three different leads of 10 or more points and delivered the game-winning points late.
  • Jordan Love finished his fifth game in the last six with multiple touchdown passes, zero interceptions and a passer rating over 100.0. Love was responsible for three touchdowns on Sunday, pushing his season total to 30 in 15 games.
  • Aaron Jones produced a season-high 127 rushing yards.
  • Romeo Doubs had an 8-yard touchdown catch to open the fourth quarter and the crucial 36-yard catch on third down on the final, go-ahead drive.
  • Rookie Tucker Kraft had two more catches of 20 or more yards, including a 27-yarder on the opening touchdown drive and a key 20-yarder on the final drive.
  • Bo Melton, a practice squad elevation, chipped in four catches and 51 total yards.
  • Jordan Love was sacked just once, and the Packers didn’t have a turnover. Overall, the Panthers had just two quarterback hits and one pass breakup.
  • Rookie kicker Anders Carlson missed an extra point, but he also connected on a 53-yard field goal — a new career long — and made the 32-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
  • Preston Smith delivered 1.5 sacks and a team-high four quarterback hits.
  • Dontayvion Wicks produced another explosive play: a 21-yard touchdown catch on the scramble drill. He left with a chest injury and didn’t return, however.

What went wrong

  • Almost everything defensively in the second half. The Panthers scored 20 points, including 14 straight in the fourth quarter.
  • Bryce Young set a new career high for passer rating (113.0) and produced his first career 300-yard passing game, while the Panthers scored 30 points for the first time in 2023.
  • The Packers offense was nearly unstoppable in the first half, but they were three-and-out three times in the second half.
  • The Packers got a turnover on downs in the first half but otherwise didn’t produce a turnover. The Panthers were also 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
  • The Packers defense had only two sacks, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. This group just isn’t disruptive. The team’s 10 quarterback hits showed the pass-rush did have a few bright moments.
  • Three different Panthers receivers had a catch of 20 or more yards. DJ Chark and Adam Thielen both finished with over 90 receiving yards.
  • Chuba Hubbard had a walk-in touchdown run, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette scored on a 20-yard end around where Rashan Gary lost contain and Jaire Alexander missed a tackle.

What it means

The Packers are still alive in the NFC playoff race. Green Bay is one of four teams at 7-8 (Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints), and all four are chasing the 8-7 Los Angeles Rams and 8-7 Seattle Seahawks for the final two wildcard spots. Beating the Vikings and Chicago Bears over the final two games will give the Packers a legitimate chance at making the postseason field, but nothing is guaranteed at this point. Can the Packers defense survive a road test in Minnesota and a visit from Justin Fields and the Bears in the season finale? Even if this season ends short of qualification for the playoffs, the Packers have learned two important things: Jordan Love and the young playmakers on offense are good, and the defense desperately needs new leadership in 2024.

What’s next

Another elimination game. The Packers will go to Minnesota to play the 7-8 Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 17. Can Matt LaFleur’s team extend the season with a road win in a tough atmosphere on New Year’s Eve night? Last year, the Packers got trucked in the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. This year’s showdown won’t feature Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins. The winner will have a terrific chance of qualifying for the postseason, and the loser will almost certainly be out. The Vikings beat the Packers 24-10 at Lambeau Field back in October.