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Week 15 Game Recap: Green Bay Packers 24, Carolina Panthers 31


What you need to know

Green Bay Packers

While some players got a bump with the return of Aaron Rodgers, overall it was many of the same familiar faces. Jordy Nelson continues to struggle while Randall Cobb and Davante Adams do well. Richard Rodgers is an interesting player when Aaron Rodgers is under center, but he will remain inconsistent and always dependent on that one big play for a touchdown. Without that he wonít garner many fantasy points. Aside from wondering if Jordy Nelson will ever recover, the biggest question is when Mike McCarthy will give Aaron Jones more reps and why he hasnít done so already. Thereís no easy answer and McCarthy doesnít seem interested in explaining. Which means Jones is too risky a play heading into championship week.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton played a very clean game, taking what the defense gave him and mixing aggressive shots with shorter, safer passes. The offensive line gave him an excellent platform to succeed, as they did with the running attack. Christian McCaffrey earned the plaudits for his performance, as he consistently produced when called upon and converted key third down opportunities. Devin Funchess was often passed over as Greg Olsen came to the fore, looking fantastic and showing no ill effects from his foot injury. His connection with Newton is something to behold.

Green Bay Packers

QB Aaron Rodgers, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 45 - 290 - 3 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 6 - 43 - 0
Any notion Aaron Rodgers was riding in on a white horse to save the Packers season was pretty thoroughly dashed by this game. While he did find the end zone three times, he also found the other teamís defense three times. Rodgers looked rusty on more throws than looked good on. All three of his interceptions were flat out bad throws and/or bad decisions. His first came when he was under pressure, and rather than take a sack or throw the ball away he threw off his back foot and it was picked off. His other two picks were under and overthrown respectively, and he missed on a lot of other passes as well. Simply put, his timing isnít all there yet. Thatís not to say we didnít see any of the old Rodgers, though. His touchdown to Randall Cobb in the second quarter showed off his unreal escapability as he fled the pocket and found a wide-open Cobb for a pass. Cobb did a lot of the heavy lifting after that, but he doesnít get the score if Rodgers takes a sack there.

RB Jamaal Williams, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 30 - 0
Williams out-carried Aaron Jones by seven carries but was out-rushed by 17 yards. Williams had a workmanlike game, taking what the offensive line and defense gave him while not creating much on his own. The rookie seemed to regress a little on Sunday, though this run defense was tough. Still, he wasnít involved at all in the passing game and Jones just looked more dynamic on his carries.

RB Aaron Jones, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 47 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
Given how well Jones has been running with just a few carries, itís a wonder he is getting so few in the first place. He took his first touch, which came in the second quarter, for 23 yards and then took another one for 20 yards two plays later. Both runs showed good speed and vision and exploded out of the holes he got on those plays.

WR Randall Cobb, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 84 - 1 (14 targets)
Cobb saw one of his more productive games with Aaron Rodgers under center, and had a nice long touchdown catch in the second quarter to boot. On that play, Cobb took a short route outside and was uncovered. Under pressure, Rodgers escaped the pocket and ran to his right, where he saw a wide-open Cobb. The receiver made the catch and turned upfield, eluding two tacklers as he slipped into the end zone. Cobb looked as good as we have seen him this year, gaining yards after the catch consistently for the first time in a while.

WR Davante Adams, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 57 - 1 (7 targets)
Adams made the first score of the game for the Packers on a leaping grab of a slightly long pass by Aaron Rodgers. Adams was pretty well open on the pass, and did a good job of hauling in a somewhat off-target throw for the score. Adamsí two biggest plays were not ones where he had the ball in his hands, though. First, he was the target on a Rodgers interception which was badly thrown on a deep route in the second quarter. The second was when he was blasted on an illegal blindside hit by Carolinaís Thomas Davis during another Rodgers interception. Adams missed the second half with a concussion and may not be ready to play the Vikings. Given his history of concussions, there should be concern.

WR Geronimo Allison, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 33 - 0 (8 targets)
For most of the year, Allison has been very quiet, but he saw a massive uptick in targets with the return of Aaron Rodgers. His eight targets were the most he has seen in the year, tying his Week 3 total, though that week he totaled 122 yards rather than just 33. On Sunday he was mostly hit on short routes, but did a good job of hauling them in for short gains.

WR Jordy Nelson, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (6 targets)
In what has been a disappointing season for Jordy Nelson, no outing has been more disappointing than Sundayís. The return of Aaron Rodgers didnít do anything for his favorite target, who wasnít his favorite target against Carolina, even when Davante Adams left the game with a concussion. There were a couple of times where he and Rodgers just werenít synced up, and a few times Rodgers just flat out missed him on a throw. He would have had a shot at a touchdown in the third quarter on a deep pass, but Rodgers shorted it.

TE Richard Rodgers, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 77 - 1 (4 targets)
After most of a season where Richard Rodgers was just a blocker, the tight end saw his most productive game so far with the return of Aaron Rodgers. That includes an easy 24-yard touchdown grab on a tight end seam route late in the game.

TE Lance Kendricks, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Kendricks saw just two passes, one which fell incomplete in the third quarter and the second late in the fourth quarter. The rest of his 22 snaps he blocked or ran routes that Rodgers didnít look for him on.


Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 31 - 242 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 14 - 58 - 0
In one of his cleanest games in a while, Cam Newton was good value for every one of his four touchdown tosses against the Packers. Newton started off with good rhythm, mixing run and pass well, including a key 10-yard scramble for a first down. Relying on the soft hands and route-running of Greg Olsen and the shiftiness of Christian McCaffrey, Newton looked to be in the groove. He capitalised with his first touchdown pass, a rocket shot to McCaffrey on a Texas route after matriculating the ball down the field. No Packers defender was close to the rookie, who waltzed in. Newton's cadence was giving the Packers trouble; in all, the visitors were called for four offsides penalties. Showing good control and poise, Newton took what the defense gave him. However, he seemed to throw caution to the wind in the second half, as the play calling got more aggressive. A 30-yard touchdown pass, his second, came on a busted coverage as Olsen blew past the Packers coverage. Newton's third touchdown pass came soon after, a bullet pass to the back of the end zone to Damiere Byrd. Newton would finish with a flourish, adding a fourth - again to Byrd - on a skinny post route. It was a thoroughly professional display from the quarterback, who was afforded excellent protection and benefited from a rock solid ground game.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 63 - 0, Rec: 6 - 73 - 1 (7 targets)
It proved be a very productive day for Christian McCaffrey, who has grown into his rookie season bit by bit. The Panthers fed him the ball constantly on the opening drive, lining him up all over the field, peppering him with passes and giving him carries. He showed a penchant for pressing and cutting in the ground game, as his offensive line did a fantastic job blowing open holes. He used his elite quickness to bamboozle defenders on a series of third down conversions, including one where he was lined up as the Z receiver and won at the catch point against a defensive back. McCaffrey finished the opening drive with a touchdown catch after running a quick Texas route in the red zone. Cam Newton found him for an easy pitch and catch score. He got fewer touches later in the game, as Newton continued to spread the ball around - but he made his presence felt.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 27 - 0, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)
Jonathan Stewart took a backseat to Christian McCaffrey this week after dominating the Vikings last time out. Stewart, notably, got a lot of touches in the red zone but failed to capitalise as the Packers shut the door. The Panthers went pass-happy in the second half as they tried to claw back the four-point deficit, leaving Stewart a bit-part player for the most part.

WR Damiere Byrd, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 25 - 2 (4 targets)
Two catches, two touchdowns for Damiere Byrd, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers since second round pick Curtis Samuel went on injured reserve. Byrd's first touchdown catch was somewhat dubious, as it appeared his sprawling effort to make a catch at the back line of the end zone would be called an incomplete pass. Upon review, it appeared Byrd had a butt cheek down in bounds and it was ruled a touchdown. After initially bobbling the bullet pass from Cam Newton, Byrd will have been pleased that his perseverance paid off. His second touchdown came on a beautiful skinny post route in the red zone - and there was no doubt about this one. With the cornerback playing outside shade, Byrd attacked him from the snap with his quickness, before breaking inside and catching a bullet pass from his quarterback.

WR Devin Funchess, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (4 targets)
It was a quiet outing for Devin Funchess, who battled through after not practicing during the week due to an injury. An early target on a post route was too high - one of Cam Newton's rare misfires on this day - but Funchess made a beautiful grab over the middle on the first play of the second half. A subsequent end zone target looked for all the world to be a touchdown, but a vicious hit from a Packers defensive back jarred the ball loose at the last second. Funchess briefly left the game after the hit, favouring his shoulder as he crept towards the bench. By the time he returned, the Panthers were well in control and went into their shells.

TE Greg Olsen, 73 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 116 - 1 (12 targets)
It was back to good old Greg Olsen against the Packers, as the veteran tight end looked like he hadn't ever been injured. There was an emphasis to attack the Packers at the second level and back third of the defense with Olsen's crisp routes from the outset. Throughout the game, Cam Newton continued to fire bullet passes to Olsen, who found room to roam against zone and man coverage. The graceful tight end made a pair of nonchalant one-handed catches that would have made Odell Beckham Jr. proud, casually plucking the ball out of the air as if it was nothing. A busted coverage by Green Bay on a seam route handed Olsen an easy 30-yard touchdown catch; there was no defender within 10 yards of him at the catch point. Olsen did his best work on third down, keeping drives alive when Newton needed him most.