CHARLOTTE – Donald Driver thought he had his record-breaking reception late in the third quarter when he hauled in a 14-yard pass over the middle.
“I got up real fast and threw the ball to the sideline, … holding,” said Driver, noting the penalty on guard Josh Sitton that wiped out the play. “I didn’t know when I was going to get the next one.”
Fortunately, it came just two plays later, on a similar route over the middle, this one for 10 yards. With the catch, Driver moved out of a tie with James Lofton for the most receiving yards in team history and now owns the record with 9,666 yards. He came into Sunday’s game tied with Lofton after compiling 41 yards in last week’s opener.
The catch turned out to be Driver’s lone grab of the day, though he also added a critical recovery of Carolina’s onside kick in the game’s final minute. He did admit to wondering whether the one yard he needed was going to come on Sunday.
“The guys were saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’s gonna come, it’s gonna come, it’s gonna come,’” Driver said.
“I’m happy that now it’s all said and done and it’s over, and I can relax and not worry about breaking any records but my own.”
From here on out, Driver will be extending his franchise records for both receptions (he has 703 now) and yards. He also owns the team mark for most consecutive games with a catch, a streak of 133 games (139 including playoffs) that ended last season.
“I didn’t expect this to ever happen, but now to be the all-time in all categories in history, that stands for something,” Driver said. “From where I came from to where I am, it’s truly a blessing.”
Scary moment: Packers safety Nick Collins has “normal feeling and complete movement in his extremities,” according to a statement released by the Packers as the team was returning from Carolina. Collins was taken off the field on a stretcher early in the fourth quarter after he appeared to injure his neck trying to make a tackle. Collins, who waved to his teammates with his right hand as he was being wheeled away, is spending the night in Charlotte.
Collins got hurt when he dove at running back Jonathan Stewart after Stewart caught a short pass. Stewart leaped to avoid the tackle and Collins’ helmet hit the underside of Stewart’s leg, near the upper hamstring or glute. Collins laid face down on the turf while being attended to, and then was placed on a stretcher. He was replaced on defense by Charlie Peprah.
“As is standard protocol, he will be kept in the hospital overnight for observation,” the statement said. “When he returns to Green Bay, he will undergo further testing and evaluation.”
Takeaway machine: Charles Woodson has forged a Hall of Fame career by creating turnovers, and he was up to his old tricks again on Sunday.
Woodson intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble against the Panthers, posting his sixth career two-interception game and fifth with Green Bay. Woodson hadn’t intercepted two passes in a game since Thanksgiving Day 2009 in Detroit, but with cornerback Tramon Williams out with a shoulder injury, Woodson resumed one of his old jobs, matching up against the opponent’s top wideout, Carolina’s Steve Smith.
“I got my hands on the ball a couple of times, which is great,” said Woodson, who has grown more accustomed to playing in the slot or near the line of scrimmage as an all-purpose defender in Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme.
“I didn’t do a great job against Steve today. He had some catches for a lot of yards, but as far as getting my hands on the ball, making some plays, giving our offense a chance to score, it’s huge. That part of it was great.”
Smith finished with six catches for 156 yards, going over the 100-yard mark with a 62-yard grab late in the game on Carolina’s final TD drive. Both of Woodson’s picks came on passes intended for Smith, the first in Green Bay territory to thwart a potential Panthers scoring drive in the second quarter, and the other deep in Carolina territory to set up a Packers field goal early in the third quarter.
The fumble recovery came on the Panthers’ next possession, as Smith was carrying the ball carelessly in one arm near the sideline and safety Morgan Burnett got a piece of his arm. The ball flew forward, bounding along the sideline, and Woodson scooped it up. That turnover, the second of three straight by Carolina to open the second half, led to another Green Bay field goal.
“That’s Charles, that’s what he does,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “He finds a way to get two interceptions, picks up that fumble. He’s always around the ball. There’s a reason for that.”
The two interceptions match Woodson’s two from a year ago, when he was employed more in the slot and on the line of scrimmage. That was his lowest total since coming to Green Bay in 2006, but the veteran corner showed he can still go outside to cover as well.
“It’s an honor just to be on the same field with him,” Burnett said. “He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s one of the greats.”
Close, but no cigar: Tight end Jermichael Finley fell victim to the “Calvin Johnson rule” on a potential touchdown pass in the third quarter.
On third down from the Carolina 19-yard line, Finley appeared to make a spectacular leaping grab over cornerback Captain Munnerlyn in the corner of the end zone, but as Finley cradled the ball in his arm, his arm hit the ground as he went down and the ball popped out.
Detroit’s Johnson had a similar play in Week 1 last year in Chicago, a pass that was ruled incomplete because Johnson lost the handle on the ball as he slid to the ground. The NFL emphasized heading into this season that the call on Johnson was correct, and that in the end zone a receiver must maintain full control of the ball while going to the ground.
“I went down and caught the ball and tried to spin on my backside, but as I was spinning, I caught my funny bone,” Finley said. “Once you catch that funny bone, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Finley didn’t argue with the officials, but needless to say he’s not too fond of the rule. The Packers ended up kicking a field goal.
“It’s crazy because in the field it would have been complete,” Finley said. “It’s a funny deal. I think they need to check on that, because that’s taking away points.”
Injury update: Other than Collins, the only other injury reported by Head Coach Mike McCarthy was to defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, who injured his foot. Additional coverage - Sept. 18