CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Green Bay Packers dealt the Carolina Panthers a defeat now familiar to Super Bowl losers.
Ahman Green ran up, down, and all over the defending NFC champion Panthers, scoring three touchdowns to lead Green Bay to a 24-14 victory last night. That made Carolina the sixth straight team to lose in the Super Bowl and drop its ensuing season opener.
"I was surprised at how well we ran the ball," quarterback Brett Favre said. "Our philosophy is we'll wear you down before you wear us down."
The Panthers last night looked nothing like the team that advanced to the Super Bowl. Unable to stop the run or run the ball -- the two main principles that carried them all last season -- the Panthers were out of synch from start to finish.
"We didn't get in a groove, and when we did get the opportunities, we didn't make the plays," said Stephen Davis, who ran for just 26 yards. "It's all of us. We've got to get better."
Green scored on runs of 3 and 6 yards and rushed for 119 yards against a Carolina defense that only gave up four individual 100-yard rushing games last season. He also caught a 3-yard scoring pass.
Carolina, meanwhile, showed just how bad its patchwork offensive line really is. With three of its starters from last season gone, a rotating group of aging veterans gamely has tried to fill the holes. But behind 35-year-old Matt Willig, who last started a game at right tackle in 1997, and 33-year-old Rich Tylski, who was out of football the past two years, the Panthers managed just 38 yards on the ground.
"One game doesn't define a season, and I really think we're better than we showed," center Jeff Mitchell said.
The lone bright spot came on Jake Delhomme's 30-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad that cut the score to 24-14 with 4:46 to play.
But that came one play after star receiver Steve Smith broke his left leg. Smith dropped writhing to the ground when he was tackled after a short catch, and had to be helped off the field.
"I might cry a little," Smith said. "But what are you going to do? Last year we didn't have hardly any injuries and this year I am the first victim."
Carolina was also done in by its own mistakes. Two turnovers led to 14 of Green Bay's points.