Rodgers, Packers beat Newton, Panthers 30-23
CHARLOTTE, NC Aaron Rodgers threw for 308 yards and two scores, while the Green Bay Packers withstood another 400-yard passing day from Carolina rookie Cam Newton to beat the Panthers 30-23 on Sunday.
A week after throwing for 422 yards, Newton topped himself by throwing for 432 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left to bring Carolina (0-2) within seven, but the Packers (2-0) recovered the onside kick to seal the victory.
Rodgers found Greg Jennings for a 49-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to put the Packers ahead for good. Then, after Clay Matthews stopped Newton on a fourth-down run inside the 5, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for an 84-yard touchdown to make it a two-possession game and help the Packers hang on.
While Newton had another big yardage day, the Packers' defense came up big by forcing the rookie into three interceptions — two by Charles Woodson. In addition, linebacker Clay Matthews managed to pull down Newton from behind on a fourth-down keeper inside the 5 to end a Panthers drive for the tying touchdown.
Two plays later, Rodgers found Nelson on the left side and the receiver sprinted down the sideline and all the way to the end zone to push the lead to 30-16 with 2:14 left.
Newton cracked the 400-yard mark on the ensuing drive, finding Steve Smith deep over the middle for a 62-yard pass before capping the drive with his scoring run. The No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft and Heisman Trophy winner completed 28 of 46 passes, but was sacked four times. He also showed plenty of mobility — he made Matthews miss on tackles at least three times — and finished as Carolina's top rusher with 53 yards.
Newton couldn't have asked for a better start in his home debut, throwing for a 3-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell on his first drive as the Panthers ran out to a 13-0 lead against the defending Super Bowl champions. But Rodgers and the Packers offense — which spent most of the first quarter on the sideline — finally got in rhythm and ran off 23 straight points.
Newton, meanwhile, made his first rookie mistake late in the second quarter by throwing to Smith in double coverage. Woodson dived in front of Smith near the left sideline to come up with the first interception with about 2½ minutes left in the half.
Newton's second interception came when he tried to sidearm a throw with Matthews pressuring him. The throw appeared to be slightly behind Smith and Woodson picked it off.
On the third, Newton simply overthrew an open Legedu Naanee and the ball ended up in the arms of safety Morgan Burnett near midfield late in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Rodgers played a mistake-free game and completed 19 of 30 throws. John Kuhn added a goal line plunge for the Packers' first touchdown of the day, while Mason Crosby kicked three field goals as the Packers just kept coming up with scores to put the pressure on Newton and Carolina's offense.
Green Bay safety Nick Collins was carried off the field on a stretcher after he injured his neck in the fourth quarter. He was hurt as he tried to tackle Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart on a catch. Stewart tried to hurdle Collins, whose head appeared to hit Stewart's left hip as he dove for Stewart's legs. Collins' neck bent awkwardly on the hit and he landed face down on the turf with 11:57 left, though he gave a slight wave to the crowd as he was being carried off the field.