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Five things to watch against the Packers: Bryce Young, comeback kid

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CHARLOTTE — The Panthers are home for the holidays, and have a chance at a win streak when the Packers come to town Sunday.

The 6-8 Packers are still alive in the NFC playoff race, though the 2-12 Panthers could deal a blow to those chances the way they did for the Falcons last week.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium. Fans can check out more information on how to watch here.

Here are five things to watch for during the game:

Bryce Young

Building blocks for Bryce

You might not call it rookie quarterback Bryce Young's best game, but you can definitely call last week's game-winner his best drive.

In a driving rainstorm with gusty winds, Young took over at his own 5-yard line with 7:35 left and drove his team to a game-winning last-second field goal. And he did it with some improbable passing stats, going 5-of-5 passing for 68 yards, with several chunk plays, including the ridiculous toe-tap to DJ Chark Jr..

"I think there's a lot of good that you can take from it in those moments, those got to have it situations," Young said this week. "I'm grateful to be a part of it for everyone on the team and us as a unit to step up. We've been able to do that on more than one occasion of putting a drive together.

"But also, it shows us the untapped potential that we have. It shouldn't take that; we shouldn't have to wait till it's that scenario. That's not something that's going to come up every game, so we can't rely on that. So, you see it, and it's great, but, you know, we've got to make sure that that's not what it calls for.

"That we're able to do that, drive in and drive out, we're able to do that, in all four quarters. You also see that side, so that's something we've got to improve on."

It was his second game-winning drive of the year (he also led them to a last-second win against the Texans in Week 8), which is as many of those as Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Trevor Lawrence, and CJ Stroud.

Secondary remains strong

Since the bye week, the Panthers have allowed just one opponent to throw for more than 200 yards, and that was when Prescott and the Cowboys rolled in here in Week 11.

Now, part of that is obviously because teams haven't had to pass as much to stay ahead of a Panthers offense that has struggled for most of the year, but the point stands — they're playing well on defense.

"I know we've been playing really well in the pass game," defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said. "Testament to the coaches preparing the guys, the guys going out there and executing. You would never guess by the way our guys prepare in the building and on the field that we were 2-12. It's just professionalism at a high level. So it's good to see those results panning out."

Evero said he's been particularly impressed with cornerback Donte Jackson, who has been a steady contributor all year. After coming off a torn Achilles, he's missed just one game and been reliable during a year when Jaycee Horn missed 10 games, and even the backups to the backups were getting hurt.

"It started off with him just trying to get acclimated to the system, coming off of his injury from last year, so I think he was a little slow to get going there," Evero said. "But what you've seen really since about the early part of the season is he's playing at a high level, he's playing the way we expected.

"Making plays on the ball, being very physical and run support, being aggressive, and he's really done a good job, and he's been a good, good leader for our room too."

Watch the watch

Last week's win came when the offensive coaches told Young to go into Rolex mode, and that's why Chuba Hubbard went down short of the end zone so they could bleed the clock and not give the Falcons the ball back.

"We kind of communicate what we call a Rolex scenario in the headset to Bryce, which means that we want to save the time over scoring touchdowns if we have a chance to be able to get into the end zone," offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said of that end-game scenario. "So, Rolex. Expensive watch. Time is important."

That said, it might be worth setting an alarm on a cheap Casio too.

The Panthers have gone seven games without scoring a first-half touchdown, which greatly reduces the number of times they have an opportunity to go to the luxury item.

Get well soon

You can't take anything for granted this year, not with the way the season illnesses have roared through the locker room.

A week ago it was the defensive backs room, but this week it landed squarely on the outside linebackers.

Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Marquis Haynes Sr. missed Wednesday and Thursday with the illness but were back on the field Friday (though Gross-Matos still looked a little green around the gills). So in an imperfect situation, they're still expected to play.

Interim coach Chris Tabor has approached his job as an infectious disease expert the way he has everything else: by reducing it to the football basics.

"It's a day-by-day deal," Tabor said reductively. "Still in a good football position, knees bent and head up, so if something happens, we'll adjust and go."

That sounds football-cliche, Hall-of-Fame-worthy, but it's also all you can do. You can practice against what you think the Packers might do, but you can't game-plan for a virus.

Last Sunday morning, backup tackle David Sharpe was a late scratch when he got sick, so you can't really predict how it's going to go.

Look, up in the sky

You might not see Santa Claus up there for an afternoon kickoff. But you know what else you won't see?

Torrential ran.

The forecast is practically perfect at the moment, with a 1 p.m. forecast for 62 degrees under partly cloudy skies.

That beats last week's biblical monsoon, so the weather won't be an excuse for anyone this week.

So join us, and enjoy a delightful day with your people.

Take a look at the best pictures from pregame, in-game, and postgame action from Sunday's win against the Falcons.

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