With talent spread as thin as it is in the NFL, it's virtually impossible to win if you give a team a distinct advantage. But that's exactly what the Packers did against
. At 9-3 and tied for the NFC South lead
is in the thick of the playoff race. The Packers are 5-7 and rapidly fading from contention but talent-wise the Packers stack up well with
. Thanks to a lack of special teams effort the Panthers played on a short field most of the day and without the ability to make a stop on defense, the Packers simply couldn't outduel
's longest scoring drive was 55 yards and only twice were the Panthers forced to start at their own 20. Meanwhile, the Packers began drives at or inside their own 20 six times. To their credit, the Packers were able to build offensive momentum with a number of lengthy drives but with a weak pass rush and a banged up secondary, the Packers simply don't have the means to stop a team like Carolina, especially when the Panthers got great field position all game long. Unless you have the best defense in the NFL, you'll eventually give away easy points if you let the opponent start at their own 40.
Like most games, there wasn't a particular play that made the difference but instead a series of plays. Despite the field position and a number of big plays by
, the Packers had the chance to win the game in the final minutes. The Packers had three chances to go up by seven late in the game but instead came away with a field goal. DeAngelo Williams scored four times from a yard out. The Panthers are a tough, physical team, the kind the Packers have struggled with throughout the season and when it was imperative to get that final yard the Packers couldn't do it. With a 31-28 lead, the Packers gave up another big return, setting up Steve Smith's back-breaking catch.
Now the Packers are two games behind
with a month left in the season. There's an outside shot at winning the division but since beating
the Packers have put up only one complete effort. After putting up big numbers in a losing effort against New Orleans and
, it's clear the Packers will need more than just offense to get back to the playoffs.