The Carolina Panthers found a solution for their inconsistency — for one game, anyway.
“We talked about having fun, remembering those Friday night high school football games that we played and how much fun they were,” Reggie White said following a 31-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. “That’s what we did. We came out and had fun.”
While the Panthers (5-7) played loose, White’s former team appeared tight, receiving a major blow in the race for an NFC wild card spot, falling to 5-7.
“We were fully ready and knew what we were getting into,” Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. “We just didn’t perform.
“I told our guys if you want this game, you’re going to have to go out and grab a hold of it and take it because this team is not going to give you anything.”
The Panthers stopped a potential three-game losing streak, but many in the locker room were questioning why the team can’t seem to put consecutive good games together. Carolina has yet to win two in a row this season.
“It’s frustrating to win one, lose one because you go out and put your time in, you work, you study and it’s just not happening,” cornerback Eric Davis said. “It’s frustrating when you go up against a club like Green Bay and play the way we played. You ask yourself why we can’t do that all the time. If I knew I would write a book, the coaches would love me and I would be rich. We can’t figure it out.”
Falling in a Hole
The Packers fell behind 14-0 as Steve Beuerlein threw two of his three touchdown passes in Carolina’s first two drives.
“This reminded me of how we played early in the year when we put ourselves in the hole,” Sherman said.
Beuerlein was 22-for-37 for 243 yards, but the night belonged to rookie Brad Hoover of Division I-AA Western Carolina. Hoover won over the crowd, many of whom were chanting his name as the game ended.
Hoover started in place of team rushing leader Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who missed the game with turf toe, and had 117 yards rushing on 24 carries and caught three passes for 41 more yards.
Hoover also impressed his teammates with his tough inside running against the 11th-best defense in the NFL.
“Every year we kind of find a guy like that. I think Fred Lane was a guy like that,” Muhsin Muhammad said of Hoover, who was signed as an undrafted free agent. “It’s just great to find a player that nobody notices and he comes up big.
“Guys around here know how hard Brad runs. He has a great knack for picking holes out and making people miss. He’s not a guy on paper who looks great. He’s not going to run a great 40-yard dash time and he’s not going to bench press the house, but you put him on the field and he makes plays.”
The Panthers were looking forward after the game to possibly winning their last four and sneaking into the postseason. In the other locker room, the Packers were shaking their heads and wondering what went wrong.
“You don’t know what is going to happen in this league, but we are not in a good position,” Sharper said. “You don’t ever want to count yourself out, but we just hurt ourselves.”