For the first time this season, the Green Bay Packers are not in sole possession of the N-F-C North Division lead.
The Minnesota Vikings moved into a first-place tie after the Packers fell to the Carolina Panthers 37-29, and the Vikings knocked off the St. Louis Rams 21-18 in overtime.
For the second straight Sunday, the Packers entered a game as a 2 1/2 point road favorite and each time, they were blown out of the water. Denver got them 29-10 a week ago and Carolina held on for a 37-29 win, but not before building a 37-14 advantage.
The Panthers were facing fourth and goal from their own four yard line with two minutes left to play. Defensive tackle Kawann Short pressured Aaron Rodgers into a interception and the Panthers survived the Packers comeback attempt.
The win for Carolina puts them at 8-0 and two games up on the Packers, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker in the drive for home field advantage throughout the N-F-C playoffs.
The Packers defense continued to struggle rushing the passer or cover receivers down field. They made slight improvement in their run defense, but that is all.
They allowed Cam Newton to fire long completions down field to the tune of 59, 52 and 39 yards. He wasn’t sacked and hardly hurried for that matter.
Aaron Rodgers passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns. He hit Randall Cobb for a 53-yard scoring strike and found Richard Rodgers twice. But when the Packers needed to score to keep the game close, they didn’t. The Packers punted the ball on eight of their first 12 possessions.
Mike McCarthy talked last week about wanting to run the ball better. Sunday, James Starks had 39 yards on ten carries and a very disappointing Eddie Lacy managed just 10-yards on the ground before leaving with a groin injury.
The Packers have struggled all season converting third downs. Nothing changed on Sunday, converting just three of 14 for 21-percent.
And all of a sudden, the offensive line that Mike McCarthy called the best he’s had in his 10-seasons in Green Bay, is under-performing. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and hit several more times.
At 6-2, the Packers certainly are not in a bad place. But what is discouraging is the way the Packers have been beaten in their two losses, which covers the last two weeks.
The Packers will face the Vikings in two weeks in the Twin Cities. In the meantime, they should be able to get well against the hapless Detroit Lions this Sunday at Lambeau Field.