Struggling Panthers roll past Packers

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, AP

Steve Beuerlein shook off his turnover troubles to make sure the Carolina Panthers got a victory. Beuerlein, who has a career-high 21 giveaways this season, threw for 243 yards (meters) and three touchdowns Monday night to lead the Panthers to a 31-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers and snap Carolina’s two-game losing streak. “You go through periods in your career, periods through a season, when things don’t happen for you and you just don’t know why,” Beuerlein said. “But the bottom line is we got a win and I made up for some of that.” The Packers (5-7) needed a win to improve already slim playoff hopes but they looked flat from the start. Their most energetic moment might have been when Ahman Green tackled a fan who ran onto the field in the fourth quarter. “I think it was the first time all year long that I felt like we were not very crisp out there,” Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. “I fully anticipated us coming out ready to play, and it was obvious that we were not ready.” Beuerlein, who has been sacked a league-high 45 times this season, has felt personally responsible for several Carolina losses this season. He had only 13 turnovers all of last season, but gave up the ball five times in one game alone this year _ a 20-10 loss to New Orleans this month. “We’ve had a lot of problems on offense. A few too many turnovers is just one them,” Beuerlein said. Against the Packers, it looked like Beuerlein’s turnovers would again hurt Carolina (5-7). He threw two first-quarter touchdown passes to put Carolina up 14-0, but negated those with a fumble and interception in the second quarter that led to Green Bay TDs. As Beuerlein dropped back to pass early in the second quarter, LeRoy Butler pushed the ball into Nate Wayne’s open arms. Green Bay scored 44 seconds later, when Green ran 26 yards (meters) untouched into the end zone to make it 14-7. Beuerlein later wasted fantastic field position when he was intercepted at the 10-yard (meter) line. The Panthers got the ball when Ken Walters’ punt dropped between Allen Rossum and Mike McKenzie, and the ball then bounced up and hit McKenzie. Carolina’s Karl Hankton pounced on it and the Panthers had the ball at the 20. But Beuerlein was picked off three plays later by Tyrone Williams, who returned it 46 yards (meters). Packers quarterback Brett Favre then hit Donald Driver with a 32-yard (meter) touchdown pass that tied it 14-14 with 2:02 to play in the half. “I was disappointed that we let them back in the game and I was a part of that with the interception in the red zone,” Beuerlein said. “All of a sudden they were right back in the game and that was partly my fault.” Beuerlein finished 22-of-37 with the two turnovers and two more sacks. But he came up big when it counted, and for the second year in a row hurt the Packers’ bid for the playoffs. Last season, he scored on a 5-yard (meter) touchdown run as time expired to rally Carolina to a 33-31 win. Several Green Bay players later said that loss cost them a shot at the postseason.

Now, Green Bay must win out _ against Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay _ to have a chance to make the playoffs. “I think a 10-6 record would probably get you in the playoffs and I don’t think 9-7 is a lock,” Sherman said. “But I’m not going to change my goals.” Beuerlein threw a 12-yard (meter) TD pass to Muhsin Muhammad in the first quarter and hit Muhammad again in the third quarter on a 3-yard (meter) scoring strike. Muhammad gained 131 yards (meters) on 11 catches. Brad Hoover, an undrafted rookie from Western Carolina filling in for the injured Tshimanga Biakabutuka, had 117 yards (meters) on 24 carries, including a 1-yard (meter) TD run in the fourth quarter. Favre passed for 267 yards (meters) and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times. In the fourth quarter, Favre was picked off by Eric Davis, and a fan dressed in a Packers jacket sprinted onto the field during Davis’ return. Green was blocked by a Carolina player and slammed into the fan, knocking him down. The fan got up and ran the length of the field, knocking down a security guard on his way to the end zone.