And that's it. The Packers win. Green Bay improves to 8-2. Carolina falls to 5-4. Thanks, everyone, for joining us!
Kyle Allen no longer has a rehabbing Cam Newton looking over his shoulder, but he had Aaron Rodgers to deal with at Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers (8-2) edged the Carolina Panthers (5-4) with a strong ground game and late defensive stand, winning 24-16 to stay atop the NFC North.
Blanked by the Chargers' pass rush at the end of a two-game road trip, the Pack were looking to extend their division lead in front of their home fans Sunday. The Panthers, meanwhile, have an MVP candidate in Christian McCaffrey and got a respectable performance from Allen, who was busy early in Sunday's affair, taking advantage of a holey Packers defense, before threatening a comeback late in the fourth.
Rodgers responded to an early Panthers lead in the second quarter, putting the Packers ahead thanks to big completions to Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams and some goal-line help from Aaron Jones. And while Carolina entered halftime with momentum thanks to a Gerald McCoy-led goal-line stand, Matt LaFleur's rushing attack helped Green Bay build a sizable advantage in the third.
Let's take a deeper dive into how the Packers ensured they'll stay atop the NFC North on Sunday:
Why the Packers won
Reason No. 1: They showcased a near-perfectly balanced offensive attack. We know Matt LaFleur likes to run the ball, but against Carolina, he had every reason to stick to the ground, with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combining for 156 yards and three scores against the Panthers' vulnerable interior. The strong rushing attack not only kept the ball in Green Bay's hands but wore Ron Rivera's defense down. Best of all, though, it wasn't the only thing that sustained the Packers' momentum. While Aaron Rodgers wasn't perfect and didn't need to be superhuman on Sunday, he still connected on enough big plays to keep the Panthers secondary guessing, with Davante Adams (118 yards) and Jimmy Graham (48-yard catch) stretching the field at different points in the game. While Mike Pettine's defense was hardly shutdown material, it also got a few big stops at crucial moments, with Tramon Williams snagging an end-zone pick and Kevin King logging a few timely deflections.
Why the Panthers lost
Some Panthers fans will be quick to point to the ticky-tack roughing-the-passer call on Gerald McCoy that extended a lifeless Packers drive at the end of the first half and, at the same time, kept the ball out of Carolina's hands. But that was far from the only reason, let alone a primary one, that Rivera's club couldn't get the job done on the road. For the most part, Kyle Allen (307 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was actually very good, showing off his legs with some pocket escapes and play-extending roll-outs, all while feeding D.J. Moore (120 yards) and Greg Olsen (98 yards) against a holey Packers defense -- all the way until the final drive, where he showed some serious moxie in a tough situation. But his end-zone pick, with the Panthers threatening a deficit-cutting score in the second half, looked like a rookie mistake and really swung momentum. The even bigger issue: The Panthers simply cannot stop the run, and that was again the case here, where McCoy and Co. looked just fine on a goal-line stand and even got after Rodgers but just could never consistently contain the middle of the field.
The Packers owned the edge for so long because of their methodical but deadly ground game, so Sunday's game wasn't exactly much of a nail-biter until well until the fourth. By that, we mean there wasn't necessarily a turning point that occurred when the game was on the line, because outside of early/midway through the first, when both sides were knotted up at 7-7, it was mostly Packers. That said, when Allen forced a red-zone shot a little over halfway through the third, Carolina essentially dug itself too deep a hole. When Allen's ill-advised pass got picked, the Panthers had been knocking at the door, threatening to put six on the board and cut Green Bay's lead to four. Instead, the Packers took over, marched down the field, ate up more clock and went up 24-10, taking a lead that ultimately proved a little too sizable to be overtaken.
Play of the game
Rodgers wasn't the biggest star of the Packers' performance, but he threw an absolute dime to Adams to set up Green Bay's second TD of the game. Trailing by three points at the time, No. 12 couldn't have placed the ball any better on this 37-yarder:
"Kyle Allen slinging it in the Lambeau snow with a chance to tie. This kid is very impressive."
Those remarks, tweeted by NFL Network's Rich Eisen during Carolina's comeback attempt, probably put the most positive spin on the Panthers' loss. And that's not to take away from them. The Packers were the better team Sunday, and they were out in front for most of the day. But Carolina should be genuinely encouraged by what it got from a second-year signal-caller in Allen. The kid legitimately had them at the doorstep of a potential come-from-behind victory, and he looked confident all afternoon -- even if his team's defense couldn't do much against the Packers' rushing attack.
The Packers (8-2) will get a well-earned rest during their bye in Week 11, and they'll probably need it considering who's on tap for the following Sunday -- the San Francisco 49ers (8-0), who are looking to stay unbeaten this Monday night and will play host to Green Bay on Nov. 24. The Panthers (5-4), meanwhile, will be back home in Week 11 for a Nov. 10 matchup with their rival Atlanta Falcons (2-7), who are fresh off an upset of the New Orleans Saints.
Relive all the action from Sunday's NFC showdown right here: