GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Lost in the snow flurries and the bellowing roar of the crowd at Lambeau Field, one overwhelming fact about the Carolina Panthers cannot be ignored:
They did this to themselves.
There will be calls to blame the officiating from Sunday's game, an eventual 24-16 Green Bay Packers victory -- and there certainly were questionable penalties. But for the Panthers, who have struggled to climb above .500 midway through the season, Sunday's loss was much more about their shortcomings than any little yellow flag.
This loss was about ceding momentum at the absolute worst times.
The unraveling began early in the second quarter, with the Panthers leading 10-7 and the ball practically at midfield. Quarterback Kyle Allen, who will start the rest of this season after the team placed Cam Newton on injured reserve, took the handoff and immediately fell to the turf. As he slipped, he lost control of the ball and let it bounce around under his butt.
And the Packers recovered.
Green Bay promptly took that turnover, the first of the game, and bulldozed down the field for a short Aaron Jones rushing touchdown. That cost the Panthers the lead, one they would never recover.
Then later in the second, the Panthers skillfully backed Green Bay up at their own seven-yard line. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy pushed off the Green Bay linemen blocking him and tackled quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the end zone right as the quarterback threw the ball incomplete.
Seemingly, the Packers would punt and give Carolina the ball back in prime field position with four-and-a-half minutes to play. Instead, McCoy was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty that kept Green Bay's drive alive. That allowed the Packers to milk the rest of the clock away as they methodically drove down the field to Carolina's 1-yard line. McCoy ultimately blew up Packers running back Jamaal Williams on an inside run with two seconds left in the half that prevented any points on the drive, but the penalty still cost the Panthers a shot at scoring from prime field position.
On the flip side, obliterating Williams to prevent points did give Carolina back some momentum -- until the third quarter began. On the opening drive of the half, Rodgers and Jones ripped through Carolina's defense with ease to set up another Jones touchdown.