GREEN BAY—The last time these two teams played against each other, Cam Newton was a rookie sensation and Aaron Rodgers was the newest member in the league’s elite quarterback club.
Rodgers led the Packers to a 30-23 win over Newton and the Panthers in that 2011 Week 2 game in Charlotte. Rodgers threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, one of them an 84-yarder to Jordy Nelson. Newton threw for 432 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Since then, Rodgers’ arrow has pointed due north. Newton’s career has been up and down. Sunday, the two quarterbacks will meet again, this time at Lambeau Field, in a game that will help define the first half of the season for the Packers, and underscore where Newton is in his career three years after he burst onto the scene as the standard by which “New Age” quarterbacks would be judged.
More importantly, each quarterback is coming off one of the defining games of his career. Rodgers led the Packers to a thrilling, final-drive-of-the-game victory in Miami last Sunday. Newton passed for 284 yards and a couple of touchdowns, rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown and rallied the Panthers to a tie in Cincinnati.
It’s a clash between a premier pocket passer and one of the stars of the NFL’s new breed of quarterbacks. This one could be a shootout.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Panthers.
1. Force the issue – Dictate to Newton, which means act, not react.
2. Run the ball – The Panthers are No. 27 against the run. It’s a way to dominate time of possession and keep Newton on the sideline.
3. Keep the heat on – The Packers’ no-huddle offense is beginning to click. It turned the play count up to 79 on Sunday in Miami, and that’s four plays more than Mike McCarthy’s goal of 75.
4. Attack – The Packers’ all-out pressure defense late in the game in Miami seemed to suit their personality.
5. Increase Davante Adams’ role – He’s an emerging weapon, and the more weapons you have, the more problems the defense has.
6. Reward Richard Rodgers – The rookie tight end is blocking well. Give him a chance to make his dad proud.
7. Get Clay Matthews on track – He’s still this team’s defensive star. He’ll lead this defense higher.
8. Convert third downs – The Panthers are No. 31 in third-down defense.
9. Take one back – The Panthers are struggling in punt and kickoff coverage.
10. Show your depth – The possibility exists the Packers will be playing without their starting cornerbacks.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - OCT. 16