Instant analysis of Packers' season-ending loss to Panthers

Aaron Rodgers' up-and-down return not enough to save Packers

After dominating opposing teams on the ground with three straight 200-yard rushing games at home, the Panthers turned to their 28th-ranked passing game on Sunday and took a big step toward reaching the postseason.

Four touchdown passes from quarterback Cam Newton and four takeaways defensively helped the Panthers spoil the return of Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, as Carolina earned its 10th win of the season by holding off Green Bay for a 31-24 victory. The 2015 NFL MVP threw for 242 yards and four scores with 60 yards on his 13 carries. McCaffrey has also caught six passes for 73 yards and could break Reggie Bush's rookie record for receptions by a running back.

"As a group when we see one guy make a play, everyone feels as if they have to make a play", Worley said.

But the dream died when receiver Geronimo Allison caught a pass over the middle and cornerback James Bradberry forced a fumble that the Panthers recovered with 1:48 left. He still had three touchdown passes, including one late in the fourth quarter that made it a one-score game, and showed flashes of the normal Aaron Rodgers that National Football League fans have come to know.

At 7-7, the Packers are on the cusp of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

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Rodgers was cleared to return on Tuesday and worked all week as the No. 1 quarterback, but he had been practicing for almost two weeks, running the scout team as soon as IR rules allowed him to start working out with the team.

The Packers fell 31-24, seeing their playoff hopes eliminated. "Obviously, I didn't play well". "It was a tough play, and I've got to make a play when it counts". But the Packers' defense held, and Rodgers delivered a gem of a play before the half. His second touchdown pass came when he scrambled before connecting with Randall Cobb for a 33-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 14-10 halftime lead. "Good defence. I respected them coming in". "I think I got lucky on that one".

Or as Newton said of Byrd: "I guess it pays to have little cheeks".

"I was like, 'Greg, you are being obnoxious right now, '" Newton said with a laugh.

"We have a lot of very high-character guys in this locker room", Olsen said. Adams left the game with a concussion, his second of the season and third in the last 14 months. In a cruel twist of fate, Allison was on the field replacing Davante Adams, who was knocked out of the game on an illegal hit by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis in the third quarter.

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