CHARLOTTE – The Panthers had been here before, just last Monday in fact.
After fighting off a furious comeback from the Indianapolis Colts for an overtime victory, the Panthers were dealing a similar rally from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
"The ebbs and flows are most certainly getting to all of us," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I know it's getting to me. But the key is we kept fighting as well."
Carolina's 37-14 fourth-quarter lead had shrunk to eight. The Packers faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line with two minutes remaining in the game.
Rodgers dropped back and was pressured by defensive tackle Kawann Short. He didn't have time to spot a wide open Randall Cobb in the far corner and instead tossed a desperate pass over the middle that was intercepted by linebacker Thomas Davis, allowing the Panthers to secure a heart-racing 37-29 victory at Bank of America Stadium.
"You just can't let up. Finishing is something we have to do a much better job of," Davis said. "But at the end of the day we came up with the victory. That's the most important thing."
Carolina built a 27-7 halftime lead with an explosive 24-point second quarter.
A 59-yard pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery on third-and-16 set up Carolina's first touchdown, a 1-yard rushing score from quarterback Cam Newton to give the Panthers a 10-7 lead.
A 52-yard pass deep down the middle to wide receiver Devin Funchess set up another Carolina touchdown moments later. Newton found tight end Greg Olsen for a 7-yard score.
Graham Gano's 49-yard field goal extended the lead to 20-7. And on third-and-7 with 49 seconds left in the half, Newton found wide receiver Philly Brown for a 39-yard touchdown.
At halftime, the Panthers had a 20-point lead and a 285 to 133 advantage in total yards.
"We were rolling there," tight end Greg Olsen said.
The Packers cut into the deficit quickly in the second half, as Rodgers connected with Cobb for a 53-yard touchdown on Green Bay's third play.
But the Panthers answered back with a 22-yard field goal in the third quarter and a 14-yard touchdown pass to Funchess early in the fourth quarter.
"I was just waiting on my time," Funchess said of his first career touchdown. "It felt great."
But things got interesting on the ensuing Green Bay possession. After racing 30 yards on a screen early in the drive, running back James Starks scored on a 29-yard screen pass and Rodgers converted the two-point attempt with a pass to wide receiver Davante Adams.
After the Panthers went three-and-out, Rodgers and wide receiver James Jones connected for a miraculous conversion on fourth-and-14. Rodgers scrambled to extend the play, and Jones made a leaping catch over top of cornerback Josh Norman for a 36-yard gain.
"I had good coverage," Norman said. "I had my hands on it, and Jones came over the top and pulled the thing out of my hands. That could have sealed it for us, I think."
Two plays later, tight end Richard Rodgers hauled in his second touchdown grab and the Packers trailed 37-29 with 3:43 remaining.
On the first play of ensuing possession, Newton's throw to wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. was picked off by cornerback Damarious Randall at the Carolina 22-yard line.
"It just has to be a ball thrown outside. It's either (Ginn) or nobody, especially at that time of the game," Newton said of what he called a "senseless" interception.
The intensity in the stadium mounted as the Packers inched closer to the end zone. They converted on fourth-and-5 with an 8-yard completion to Cobb. At the two-minute warning, Green Bay faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
Rivera called timeout after getting a look at the formation. Then Short exploded off the ball, and Davis finished off the Packers.
"We don't want to be in those situations but we definitely welcome that challenge – being the group that's on the field when the game is on the line," Davis said. "We were able to come away with the victory."
View game action photos from Carolina's 37-29 win over Green Bay.