|Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) scored four touchdowns, including the winner in the fourth quarter. (Mike roemer/Associated Press)|
Panthers weather Packers' storm
GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Carolina Panthers should have been trudging into a snowy Green Bay night wondering for the second week in a row if they're really as good as their record indicates.
Instead, they were celebrating an improbable come-from-behind victory yesterday, thanks to late back-to-back-to-back big plays by Mark Jones, Steve Smith, and DeAngelo Williams - and a Packers team that seemed intent on giving the game away.
But with division rival Tampa Bay coming to Charlotte next Monday night, Smith wasn't gloating about the Panthers' stunning 35-31 victory in wintry conditions at Lambeau Field.
"It just means we're 9-3," Smith said. "It's nothing to go start making T-shirts about. It's just a record. We've got a very good opponent coming in our house Monday night. That's our next focus."
Williams scored his fourth touchdown of the game with 1:30 left after a big kickoff return by Jones and catch by Smith on a deep ball from Jake Delhomme. With the win, Carolina rebounded from a head-scratching blowout loss at Atlanta last week and kept pace in the competitive NFC South.
The loss could be crushing for the Packers (5-7), who were coming off a blowout loss in New Orleans and fell two games out of the NFC North lead.
"We have been way too inconsistent, definitely underachieving at times," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "The inconsistency is the biggest disappointment."
Green Bay's last-minute special teams and defensive breakdowns ruined what could have been a signature win for Rodgers, who led Green Bay back from a 21-10 halftime deficit.
With the game tied at 28, Rodgers drove Green Bay deep into Carolina territory and absorbed a jarring late hit out of bounds by Carolina's Julius Peppers for a penalty. That set up first and goal on the 7.
The Panthers made a goal-line stand, but the Packers took a 31-28 lead on Mason Crosby's 19-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining.
But Green Bay immediately gave up a 45-yard kickoff return to Jones and a 54-yard heave from Delhomme to Smith to set up first and goal on the Green Bay 1.
Williams then went up the gut for his career-high fourth score of the game.
Williams had 21 rushes for 72 yards. Smith finished the game with 105 yards receiving - all in the second half. Delhomme was 12 of 17 for 177 yards.
Rodgers finished 29 of 45 for 298 yards with three touchdowns, and threw an interception with 1:19 left.
The Packers had a late lead, the crowd, and the sometimes-notorious Lambeau weather in their favor - and let it all fall apart.
"We're just not making big plays when the money's on the table," Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We don't punch it in on third and 1. You don't make any plays. We're playing in spurts, and we're not doing enough to win games."