Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers gave the Green Bay Packers a serious upset scare at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, as the rookie quarterback helped give the Panthers a 13-0 lead in the first quarter before the defending Super Bowl champions found their footing and took over in the second half. Three turnovers to start the second half helped the Packers score 16 points in the third quarter, and Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for an 84-yard touchdown pass that put the dagger in the Panthers’ upset bid.
Here are five observations from the Packers’ Week 2 win:
1. Concern in the secondary
Many were quick to attribute the Packers struggles on defense in Week 1 to playing a passing magician in Drew Brees, but the fears were confirmed against Newton and the Panthers. You could probably count 10 or so occasions where the Panthers had receivers wide open for completions. Newton spared no one, as Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews and Erik Walden were all beat. It all equaled another 400-yard passing day against the Packers defense, who now ranks 32nd in the NFL in passing yardage.
Add in the fact that safety Nick Collins will miss the year due to a neck injury, and there are legitimate concerns in the Packers pass defense. There’s no way to sugar coat it two weeks into the season. They need to be better for the Packers to reach their high expectations in 2011.
2. Starks emerges
If there was any doubt going into Carolina who should be the Packers No. 1 back, James Starks erased them with a nine-carry, 85-yard day. He also caught three passes for 30 yads. While Ryan Grant is the established veteran in the equation, Starks simply looks like a better running back at this point. I’ve said all along—Starks just runs angry. That violence ensures he never goes down on the first hit. Grant can still be used in certain situations, but Starks deserves at least an 80-20 share of the touches until he shows otherwise.
3. Covering running backs
For the second straight week, the Packers were unable to get a hold of running backs in the passing game. After watching the Saints back field catch 11 passes for 112 yards—seven and 75 coming from Darren Sproles—the Packers allowed Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to haul in 12 passes for 123 yards. Stewart alone caught eight balls for 100 yards.