CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers dealt the Carolina
Panthers the kind of defeat now familiar to Super Bowl losers.
Ahman Green ran up, down and all over the defending NFC champion
Panthers, scoring three touchdowns to lead Green Bay to a 24-14
victory Monday night. That made Carolina the sixth straight team to
lose in the Super Bowl and drop its ensuing season opener.
"I was surprised at how well we ran the ball," quarterback
Brett Favre said. "Our philosophy is we'll wear you down before
you wear us down."
The Packers could have had that chance in January, if not for
Favre's errant final pass on his first snap in overtime of the
divisional playoffs. The pass was intercepted and set up
Philadelphia's winning field goal.
Carolina then beat the Eagles to advance to the first Super Bowl
in team history.
But the Panthers looked nothing like that team on Monday night.
Unable to stop the run or run the ball -- the two main principles
that carried them all last season -- the Panthers were out of sync
from start to finish.
"We didn't get in a groove, and when we did get the
opportunities, we didn't make the plays," said Stephen Davis, who
ran for just 26 yards. "It's all of us. We've got to get better."
Green scored on touchdown runs of 3 and 6 yards and rushed for
119 yards against a Carolina defense that only gave up four
individual 100-yard rushing games last season.
Although he had to receive intravenous fluids after the game,
preventing him from talking to the media for more than 45 minutes,
he ran with ease during the game and gave no indication that this
was the first time this year Green Bay's entire offensive unit was
on the field together.
"We basically showed what it takes to win games, which is a
complete game," Green said.
Carolina, meanwhile, showed just how bad its patchwork offensive
line really is. With three of its starters from last season gone, a
rotating group of aging veterans has gamely tried to fill the
But behind 35-year-old Matt Willig, who last started a game at
right tackle in 1997, and 33-year-old Rich Tylski, who was out of
football the past two years, the Panthers could do nothing and
managed just 38 yards on the ground.
"One game doesn't define a season, and I really think we're
better than we showed," center Jeff Mitchell said.
Jake Delhomme struggled to find time to pass, often throwing his
hands up in disgust after hurrying a pass and angrily glaring at
the sidelines after several knockdowns. The lone bright spot came
on Delhomme's 30-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad that cut
the score to 24-14 with 4:46 to play.
But that came one play after star receiver Steve Smith broke his
left leg. Smith, who signed a $27.5 million contract extension
during the offseason, dropped writhing to the ground when he was
tackled after a short catch, and had to be helped off the field.
"I might cry a little," Smith said. "But what are you going
to do? Last year we didn't have hardly any injuries and this year I
am the first victim."
Carolina was also done in by its own mistakes. Two turnovers led
to 14 of Green Bay's points.
Brad Hoover fumbled at the start of the second half, giving
Green Bay the ball at the Carolina 31. Although Robert Ferguson's
touchdown catch was negated by offensive pass interference, the
Packers still converted the turnover into seven points when Green
ran nearly untouched into the end zone for a 17-7 lead.
The Panthers then put together their own drive, only to turn the
ball over again just as they got into scoring position. Delhomme
threw a pass to Smith who bobbled it twice before it squirted up
and into Nick Barnett's hands.
Green Bay took possession of the ball and handed off to Green,
who steadily pounded away at Carolina's defense. Running through
gaping holes late in the third quarter, he gained 43 yards in the
period then scored his third touchdown of the game on a 3-yard
catch at the edge of the end zone to give the Packers a 24-7 lead.
As rusty as the Panthers looked, so did Favre, at least at the
Looking nothing like he did in his last Monday night game, when
he passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a December win over
the Oakland Raiders, Favre missed on three of his first five
attempts and finished 15-of-22 for 143 yards.<
^NOTES:@ Green Bay defensive tackle Grady Jackson dislocated his
left knee and running back Najeh Davenport strained his hamstring.
... Favre moved into third place all-time with his 126th career
win, passing Fran Tarkenton. Favre also passed Tarkenton for fourth
in career passing attempts with 6,486. ... Carolina linebacker Dan
Morgan had a game-high 13 tackles.
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