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Cardiac Cats Thump Packers 35-31

The Cardiac Cats are at it again with yet another comeback win, this time at storied Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. Carolina blew a 21-10 halftime lead, but scratched their way back to an improbable 35-31 victory. Green Bay needed this game as much as the Panthers did to keep the postseason in sight, and they dominated most of the second half, but Carolina kept coming up with the big plays when they needed it.

Carolina was determined to start the game aggressively after sleepwalking through the first halves of the last few games, and this meant a flea flicker on the first play. As beautiful as it was looking, it sadly ended in a fumble by Muhsin Muhammad, as Green Bay’s Tramon Williams knocked the ball loose and Charles Woodson came up with it. However, the fast start accomplished setting the tone that the Panthers wanted. Fortunately for the Cats, the Packers were unable to capitalize on the turnover as the Panther defense kept them stuffed in the backfield. In fact, the Pack went 3 and out on their first two possessions; quarterback Aaron Rodgers went 0-4 until about seven minutes into the first quarter, with their initial three drives equating to 34 yards.

The vaunted Green Bay secondary came into the game banged up, and early in the first quarter cornerback Nick Collins sustained a hip injury after stopping what appeared to be an imminent DeAngelo Williams touchdown.

Collins was trying knock Williams out of bounds with a strong hit, but like many times in the game, Williams proved he can be a bruising back as well as a shifty one. One would think that Collins would have had the better end of that stick, but amazingly Williams was the one still standing. Unfortunately, Collins got tangled up with a cameraman on the play, as he bounced off the Panther running back. In response to their secondary ailments, Green Bay had switched stellar corner Woodson to safety, and had Tramon Williams getting the start to fill in the hole.

Carolina fullback Brad Hoover had another brilliant day, including a key pancake block of stout A.J. Hawk on the aforementioned play.

On their 4th possession Green Bay sputtered, but Mason Crosby kicked a 32-yard field goal to put Green Bay on the board and spark the offense for the start of the second quarter.

Carolina answered with putting up seven more of their own to make it 14-3; rookie Jonathan Stewart broke off a 43-yard run which ended in a fumble as Stewart’s hamstring tightened up and he was uncharacteristically caught from behind. Luck was on the Panthers’ side as offensive lineman Travelle Wharton hustled to the ball and salvaged the play. Wharton was a monster all day and all over the field. He has more than earned the new contract he received, including important blocks that allowed Jake Delhomme a touchdown, as well as DeAngelo Williams. Speaking of Carolina quarterback Delhomme, he had his second straight game with a rushing score. Furthermore, it was third-year vet Williams’ second of four 1-yard touchdown rushes; with Stewart’s hammy ailing, Williams showed that he can be a short-yardage back, too. While his streak of 4 consecutive 100-yard rushing games ended, he now has 6 contests in a row with a TD and is 5 yards shy of reaching the 1000 yard mark for the season. Williams had a career game with his 4 scores, and the Panthers set a single-game franchise record with 5.

Eleven is a good number for the Panthers, as Williams has 11 touchdowns and Julius Peppers has delivered 11 sacks thus far this season. Peppers registered 2 in the game, even with a penalty for unnecessary roughness on one of them.

Green Bay closed the gap again after Carolina’s score; Rodgers connected with Donald Driver for 6-yard touchdown to come within 4 points of the Panthers.

Carolina went 3 and out on their ensuing series, but the offense quickly had another chance to create a little more distance between them and the Packers. Green Bay center Scott Wells snapped the ball too high, and Rodgers was not able to get possession of it before Carolina’s Charles Johnson. As was the trend for the day, the Panthers again entertained great field position at Green Bay’s 24. Carolina gets the touchdown with another DeAngelo Williams 1-yard run, to make it 21-10 at the half.

Green Bay came out fighting in the third quarter, looking more alive than in the 1st half, and Carolina spotted them 11 points.

The Packers also opened the fourth with another touchdown to tie the game, but the Cardiac Cats were shaking off the dust and held them to three points on their only other scoring opportunity. The Panthers showed their grit with two goal-line stands to stave off the TD.

Returner Mark Jones once again gave the Panthers good field position, getting 45 pivotal yards to put them at midfield. Even though Jake Delhomme had a minute and change to spare, he didn’t waste any time, and immediately heaved a spectacular throw off his back foot in traffic, which was followed by an even more spectacular catch by Steve Smith. The Pro Bowl receiver dazzled us again with his athleticism, and displayed why he’s the most talented in the league. Smith was tackled at the 1-yard line, and Williams punched it again.

Standout middle linebacker Jon Beason spoiled any hopes of a Packers comeback with an interception of Rodgers with 1:19 left.

The Packers’ playoff hopes are now quite dimmed, while the Panthers still have life, in a tough NFC South, but still tied for first place with Tampa Bay. Their next game is an MNF showdown with the Buccaneers in Charlotte, to break the tie. Carolina has a very tough schedule ahead of them, with two crucial division games in the mix; but they are capable of holding onto their perch if all three phases of the team continue to execute like this game.

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