The Carolina Panthers have only two wins on the season and no postseason to play for. However, they came into the Christmas Eve matchup against the Green Bay Packers boasting a 3rd-ranked defense. What had been a bright light in a season of darkness for Carolina was dim early o, giving up 23 first half points. The Packers scored on all of their first half possessions and didn’t punt until the Panthers forced a 3-and-out to start the second half.
Coming out of the intermission down 23-10, the Panthers showed signs of life, culminating a 14-play, 8:20 drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Chuba Hubbard, trimming the lead to 7 on their only possession of the quarter. Eddy Pineiro missed the extra point. The Packers responded with score of their own as quarterback Jordan Love connected with Romeo Doubs on a 5-yard touchdown to open the final quarter and give Green Bay a commanding 30-16 lead. Then….Bryce Young began to cook. The rookie showed why he was selected No. 1 overall with surgical drives capped by two touchdowns to DJ Chark to tie the game at 30 with 4:05 to play. It did not come without a bit of razzle dazzle as a couple of calls did not go Carolina’s way down the stretch. Ihmir Smith-Marsette converted a third-and-short and was down inside the red zone before Panthers lineman Cade Mays was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play. Three plays later, the Packers were whistled for unnecessary roughness putting the ball on the 12. Young and Chark connected on the touchdown four plays later. Young scrambled into the end zone for the 2-point conversion but it was called back as lineman Ikem Okwanu was flagged for holding. With the extra point attempt pushed back to 42 yards, Pineiro missed his second kick of the afternoon.
Carolina’s defense forced a three-and-out on Green Bay’s next possession, and Young and Chark connected for their second score of the day. Running back Raheem Blackshear came in to complete the 2-point conversion and tie the game. A pivotal 36-yard sideline catch by Doubs ultimately sealed the game. Interim head coach Chris Tabor challenged the on-field ruling of a completed catch but lost the challenge and a time out. With Carolina out of timeouts, the Packers continued to drive and control the clock, kicking a 32-yard go-ahead field goal with 19 seconds left on the clock.
The Panthers put up a valiant effort with big catches by Chark and Adam Thielen, getting the ball to the 47 before yet another debatable judgement call by the referees. Young – and everyone else – thought that he’d spiked the ball with a second left but it was ruled that the clock had hit zero; sending the Panthers to their 13th loss of the season. Young finished with a career-high 312 yards on 23-of-35 passing, two touchdowns, and a 113 passer rating. Chark led all receivers with six catches for 98 yards while Thielen added another 94 yards.
Carolina falls to 2-13 and will travel to Jacksonville for Week 17 while Green Bay improves to 7-8.