GREEN BAY—The Packers are playing their best football of the season as they near the halfway point in the season. An easier-than-expected, 38-17 win over the Carolina Panthers underscored the Packers’ caliber of play on Sunday.

“We improved today. Not only our record, but our quality of play improved today,” Coach Mike McCarthy said following the win.

The win improved the Packers’ record to 5-2 and kept them in a tie with the Lions for first place in the NFC North. With a win in New Orleans next week, the Packers would hit the bye week with a 6-2 record that’s far removed from the disappointment of a 36-16 loss in Seattle on opening day.

Such is the ebb and flow of the NFL. The defending Super Bowl-champion Seahawks, seemingly invincible in Week 1, lost to the Rams on Sunday, a second consecutive loss for a Seattle team that is a not-so-invincible 3-3.

“I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s important to pay attention to your own team. Our young guys are getting better and our older players are getting more comfortable,” McCarthy said.

Most of all, McCarthy’s team is improving on defense. A defense that was ravaged by its opponents’ running game early in the season, is beginning to dominate the line of scrimmage. It intercepted another pass on Sunday, giving the Packers 10 this season, and it held its opponent to fewer than 20 points for the fourth time in the last five games.

“Dom was aggressive in mixing the coverages,” McCarthy said in complimenting his defensive coordinator, Dom Capers. “We hit our targets. We needed to stop Cam Newton.

“It starts at the line of scrimmage. I thought our defense held the line of scrimmage all day. The ability to play on their side of the line of scrimmage was a big advantage for us,” McCarthy said.

The Packers scored the first three times they had the ball. Their lead would’ve been 28-0 had a pass interference penalty against cornerback Tramon Williams not nullified an apparent pick-six interception by Clay Matthews.

“Aaron (Rodgers) did an excellent job running the offense. Jordy (Nelson) is getting his opportunities and his production is creating opportunities for other people. I thought offensively we did exactly what we wanted to,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers completed 19 of 22 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns and a near-perfect 154.5 passer rating. It was his fourth consecutive dominant performance, dating back to a win in Chicago that turned the Packers’ season from at-risk to on-the-rise.

“Big-play production. You have to have it. That’s how you win in this league,” McCarthy said.

Nelson scored on a 59-yard touchdown reception and Randall Cobb turned one short reception into a 47-yard gain and another one into 33 positive yards. Eddie Lacy and James Starks each rushed for more than five yards per carry; Lacy gained 63 yards on 12 carries and Starks rushed for 36 yards on seven tries.

“It’s a lot more efficient and it started in the Chicago game,” Rodgers said of the Packers offense.

The win was also the Packers’ third in as many home games this season.

“There’s nothing better than a noon victory at Lambeau Field,” McCarthy said.

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