Packers lose in Rodgers' return to the field

Streeter Lecka  Getty Images

At other times it appeared the Packers quarterback was just a touch off.

Aaron Jones led the way on the ground with 47 yards on three carries.

You bring back for the scrambles, for the magnificent touchdown passes, for the plays that can't make. "Guys showed up and made plays today". The Packers moved the ball to the 38-yard line before receiver Geronimo Allison fumbled after a catch over the middle.

"I need to do a better job of squeezing and securing it and there wouldn't be an argument", Allison said.

Rodgers, playing for the first time since breaking his right collarbone on October 15, threw a trio of touchdown passes, but his three turnovers prevented the Packers (7-7) from picking up a win they desperately needed to stay in the NFC playoff hunt.

Defensively the Packers were exposed time and again.

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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. At 7-6 coming into the contest, it made sense for Rodgers to play and try to push the Packers into the playoffs for an eighth straight season. "Obviously, I didn't play well". And with every hit he took, the Packers had to be holding their breath.

The first of Rodgers's trio of picks was the most understandable one.

Newton found Olsen for a 30-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter before another score minutes later to Damiere Byrd. That play ended the first possession of the second half for Green Bay. The play was initially ruled an incompletion, but coach Ron Rivera challenged the play and officials overturned the call ruling that Byrd's buttocks landed inbounds. When we got the opportunity to run I think we ran it well.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't have a problem with the decision, calling it a good catch.

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

Olsen said sheepishly: "I was 150,000 percent wrong".

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The Panthers turned one of Rodgers' three interceptions into points, as a third quarter pick by Colin Jones led to Byrd's first touchdown reception.

Davis was flagged, but not ejected for the hit and was visibly remorseful on the sideline.

Davis immediately realized what he had done, cupping his head in hands as he sat on the Panthers bench.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton outshone Rodgers with 242 passing yards and four touchdowns as Carolina cruised to a 31-24 victory. Davis was not available for comment after the game. The ball floated and cornerback Daryl Worley was able to get his second interception in as many weeks.

Olsen, who spent eight games on injured reserve with a fractured foot and missed the next game and a half with soreness in the foot, looked a shell of himself in last week's win against Minnesota with no catches on one target.

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