CHARLOTTE – As replay review continues to generate more and more discussion around the NFL, two razor-thin calls went against Green Bay on Sunday that had a huge impact on the Packers’ 31-24 loss in Carolina.
First, replay overturned an incomplete-pass call in the back of the end zone on a throw to Panthers receiver Damiere Byrd in the third quarter.
On first-and-goal from the 9, Carolina QB Cam Newton fired for Byrd between two Green Bay defenders. The ball popped out of Byrd’s grasp but he re-corraled it as he fell backside-first near the end line.
The Panthers challenged the incomplete ruling, and by the closest of margins, replay overturned the call and ruled it a touchdown, indicating Byrd’s rear end landed in bounds before his body shifted and touched out of bounds during the course of the fall.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t have a problem with the ruling, but he definitely disagreed with a later call that was not reversed.
With the Packers driving for the potential tying touchdown in the final two minutes, receiver Geronimo Allison caught a slant pass and had the ball punched out of his grasp by cornerback James Bradberry just inside the Carolina 30-yard line.
Panthers safety Mike Adams recovered to seal Carolina’s seven-point win. The turnover play was automatically reviewed, and McCarthy felt it should have been changed to an incomplete pass, with Allison not having established complete control of the ball. The Packers’ offense momentarily came off the sideline as though it was heading back out on the field.
The call stood, however, and the Packers’ furious comeback attempt was over.
“I think it could have gone either way, but they said the play stands,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “It’s one of those if they rule it incomplete, maybe they review it and the play stands. They didn’t see conclusive evidence to confirm it or flip it. It was a bang-bang call.”
Allison wasn’t blaming replay, saying Rodgers gave him a good pass and it’s on him to secure it. He thought he had separated from Bradberry more than he did on the play.
“He did a good job putting it in there. I just have to do a better job finishing it off,” said Allison, who had five catches for 33 yards filling in for Davante Adams, who left with a concussion.
“I felt like we could have pulled it off and lived to fight another day.”
Mutual respect: Former Green Bay pass rusher Julius Peppers got to Rodgers in the fourth quarter, earning credit for a half-sack on fourth down that stopped a Packers drive.
The play gave Peppers yet another double-digit sack season, and he and Rodgers had a brief friendly exchange before they left the field.
“Julius and I have been teammates, and there’s a close friendship there,” Rodgers said. “We talked at length before the game and we talked after the game.
“He’s one of those guys I really enjoyed playing with when he was a teammate. He’s one of the greatest of all-time, and he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Just paying him respect.”
Tough matchup: The Packers got their fill of Christian McCaffrey on Carolina’s opening touchdown drive, as the Panthers’ rookie running back touched the ball nine times for 60 total yards and finished the march with a 7-yard TD catch.
That first drive accounted for almost half of McCaffrey’s 136 yards from scrimmage in the game (63 rushing, 73 receiving).
“I was watching the game film on him, and I didn’t think they used him (as much) as they should have,” outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. “But today, he was all over the field.”
The other troublesome weapon was tight end Greg Olsen, who had done little since coming off injured reserve earlier this month. But the veteran racked up nine catches for 116 yards, including six for 89 in the second half when the Packers were paying more attention to McCaffrey.
Playoff disappointment: The Packers probably aren’t mathematically eliminated from the NFC playoff chase at 7-7 with two games to go, but barring an extremely fortunate series of events, the eight-year postseason streak is over.
“I haven’t gotten there yet,” Nelson said. “As a football player, I think everyone is week by week. That’s how we’re programmed. That’s how we live our lives pretty much. That’s the situation we’re in, but we still have two games to go do our job and that’s play football, and hopefully get two wins.” Injury update:
In addition to Adams leaving the game with a concussion, the Packers also saw outside linebacker Nick Perry exit with an ankle injury. Perry had been listed as questionable on the injury report coming into the game with foot and shoulder injuries.
Complete game coverage: