The Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 33-30 road win over the Carolina Panthers. Aaron Jones ran for 127 yards while Jordan Love threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third in the win. The defense almost let this important win slip away, but the Pack held on for the victory. Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers 33-30 win over the Panthers.

First Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Jordan Love Played Well Without Most of His Top Receivers

Love did not have Christian Watson and Jayden Reed for the entire game. That’s two of his top three wideouts. Then, Dontavion Wicks suffered a chest injury late in the second quarter and did not return.

Despite not having many of his top receiving weapons, Love did not turn the ball over and finished the game with a 109.1 quarterback rating.

He also came through in the clutch and led the team to the winning drive in the game’s final minute. On that drive, he completed passes of 36 yards to Romeo Doubs on a big third down and 20 yards to Tucker Kraft to set up the winning field goal.

He kept his cool and led the team to a 33-point effort for the win. This is the eighth game this season Love had a quarterback rating of 100 or above. Last year, Aaron Rodgers had three.

Second Thing We Learned: Aaron Jones Set the Tone

Jones set the tone for the offense on the first drive and continued to be a big factor when called on. He carried 21 times for 127 yards including a season-long 39-yard gain.

This week, Jones was not on a play count, and he enjoyed his best game of the season. In fact, he became the first Packers runner or receiver to gain more than 100 yards in a game all year.

Jones’ presence opens up all kinds of things for the offense because defenses must account for him whenever he’s in the lineup.

He ran four times for 38 yards on the Packers first drive of the game and caught a pass for eight more yards. Jones and the offense never looked back.

Third Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: The Defense Continues to Make All Offenses Look Great

The Carolina offense entered the game ranked 30th in the league in yards gained and 29th in points scored. That didn’t matter as Joe Barry’s unit failed to stop the Panthers from moving the ball up and down the field.

The Panthers offense gained a season-high 394 yards in this game and averaged 6.4-yards per play. In the second half, Carolina’s offense scored three touchdowns and punted only once. The defense did not force a turnover all game.

The Panthers took over the ball down by three points with 19 seconds left and no timeouts. The Packers defense gave up back-to-back passes for 22 yards to D.J. Chark and Adam Thielen which put the ball at the Packers 31. Had there been just one more second on the clock, the Panthers would have been able to attempt a 48-yard field goal to try to send the game to overtime.

The Panthers set season-highs in points and yards and looked like a competent NFL offense instead of the third-worst statistical offense in the league.

Fourth Thing We Learned: Romeo Doubs and Bo Melton Came Up Big

The wide receiver room was missing two of it’s top three players entering the game and then lost Wicks just before the half.

That meant the remaining wideouts had to step up and play well and Doubs and Bo Melton did just that. Doubs caught four passes on five targets for a team-leading 79 yards. That included a huge 36-yard catch on third-and-four on the team’s final offensive series that kept the drive alive and helped set up the winning field goal.

Melton came up with four catches on six targets for 44 yards and provided Love with a consistent target.

The Packers needed Doubs and Melton to step up with so many receivers unavailable and they did just that.

Fifth Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Penalties Continue to Hurt the Pack

The Packers continue to commit unnecessary and costly penalties that are costing them at key times. For the game, they committed six penalties for 67 yards but four of those penalties gave Carolina a first down.

A roughing the kicker penalty by Lukas Van Ness allowed the Panthers to continue a drive after they punted. It also wiped out a 20-yard punt return by Keisean Nixon.

Personal foul penalties on Devonte Wyatt and Anthony Johnson, Jr. aided Panthers drives as did a roughing the passer penalty on Isaiah McDuffie.

These were undisciplined penalties that should not be happening this late in the season. Against a better opponent, they very well could have cost the Packers the game.

Sixth Thing We Learned: Preston Smith Had a Big Day

Edge rusher Preston Smith had a productive game for the Packers defense. He recorded 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and four quarterback hits.

Of all the players on the Green Bay defense, Smith was one of the few who came up with big plays. They needed his contributions to win this football game and will need more defenders to come up with more game-changing plays.

Seventh Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: First Half Offense Was Outstanding

The Packers offense was hitting on all cylinders especially in the first half. In the first 30 minutes of the game, the Packers picked up 19 first downs and gained 251 yards while converting on 5-of-7 third down chances.

They scored three touchdowns and a field goal on their first four drives of the game.

The only drive of the half they didn’t score on started with 18 seconds left before the intermission and they still gained 24 yards before time ran out.

Matt LaFleur did a good job of mixing run and pass and Love was confident, spreading the ball around and gaining in chunks.

It may have been the best half for the offense all season.

Eighth Thing We Learned: Special Teams Was Up and Down

The Packers special teams had a mixed performance. Anders Carlson hit the game-winning field goal in the final minute and booted a 53-yarder as well. He also missed an extra point mostly due to a high snap.

Nixon had a 38-yard kick return and average 31.5-yards per runback, but he also had a 20-yard punt return wiped out by a roughing the kicker penalty and allowed a far too easy two-point conversion with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter that allowed Carolina to tie the game.

The Packers still need more consistency in this important phase of the game.

Ninth Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: Struggling QBs Look Good vs Joe Barry’s Defense

For the third straight game, the Packers defense made a non-star quarterback look like a Hall of Famer. Yes, rookie Bryce Young was the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and he has a lot of talent. But he’s also struggled nearly all season.

Young set career highs in quarterback rating (113.0) and yards (312) and had only his second game with more than one touchdown pass.

Young started slowly but gained more confidence throwing against Barry’s soft zone, especially in the second half.

Barry did use some more blitzes and Quay Walker did record half a sack, but overall, the defense continued to make non-elite quarterbacks look like All Pros even with Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes in the lineup together for this first time all season.

Tenth Thing We Learned in the Packers Win: The Packers Playoff Hopes Are Still Alive

With this win, the Packers improved to 7-8 on the season and kept their playoff hopes alive. The Vikings loss helped them although wins by the Seahawks, Falcons and Bucs did not help.

Still, according to the New York Times computer, if the Packers win their last two games, they have about a 94 percent chance to make the postseason.

Obviously, the defense will have to play better against the Vikings and Bears, but the fact that the Packers will be playing meaningful games this late in the season is a positive in a rebuilding season and it gives the team a chance to gain valuable experience.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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