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Packers survive Panthers – barely

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It’s still early, but Jordan Love is beginning to show the poise and big-play capability that seem to be prerequisites for a Green Bay Packers quarterback.

The first-year starter turned in an effort reminiscent of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, helping the Packers stay in the NFC playoff hunt.

Love threw for two touchdowns, ran for one and made two big completions to set up Anders Carlson’s 32-yard field goal with 19 seconds left, and the Packers survived a fourth-quarter rally by Carolina to beat the Panthers 33-30.

Love had touchdown passes of 21 yards to rookie Dontayvion Wicks and 5 yards to Romeo Doubs and scored on a quarterback sneak as the Packers snapped a two-game skid. He’s averaged 263 yards passing over the last six games with 13 touchdown passes and only one interception.

“Any time we can get a win, we’re going to celebrate that,” Love said. “We kept our playoff hopes alive. We found a way tonight. Obviously now it’s on to next week.”

The Packers (7-8) remain one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card race.

“We all know what’s in front of us, and we know what we’re capable of,” Love said. “We’re just going to go finish this thing off.”

Aaron Jones became the first Packers player this season to exceed 100 yards rushing or receiving in a game, running for 127 yards on 21 carries as the Packers built a 23-10 lead at halftime behind three long touchdown drives.

But Bryce Young, who threw for a career-high 312 yards, rallied the Panthers (2-13) from a 14-point deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to DJ Chark to tie the game at 30-30 with 4:05 remaining.

Love came through for the Packers on the final drive.

He completed a 36-yard strike on third-and-4 to Doubs, who hauled in a catch against man-to-man coverage near the sideline at the Carolina 33 that Fox Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino said on television should have been overturned.

“If I make the play, the game is over,” Doubs said. “And I made the play, so the game was over.”

Love, who finished 17 of 28 for 219 yards, followed with a 20-yard completion to rookie tight end Tucker Kraft to reach the Carolina 13, setting up Carlson’s winning kick.

“We ran a stop route with (Doubs), and he made a fantastic catch right there on the sideline, which was a huge play in that drive,” Love said. “And then coming back later, the one to Tucker, I was able to fit it in between two guys and he was able to bounce off them and pick up some more yards, so it was a huge catch by him and a great way to finish that drive. Two huge plays by those guys.”

Two great throws, too.

Carolina had one last chance. Young completed a 22-yard pass to Chark on the sideline to stop the clock and then threw over the middle to Adam Thielen for another 22 yards to the Green Bay 31. But the Panthers, without any timeouts, were unable to spike the ball before time expired.

Panthers interim coach Chris Tabor said he “absolutely” felt the team got the ball spiked before the clock ran out, but he wasn’t given an explanation after the game by the officials.

“I’m disappointed for those guys in that room,” Tabor said. “They laid everything on the line there. And we played hard. We just ran out of time. But we are getting better and there is no doubt about that.”

Said Packers coach Matt LaFleur: “It feels good to win. Certainly made it a little closer than we would’ve liked but give Carolina a ton of credit. They fought for for four quarters. The bottom line is that we found a way to make a couple of plays down the stretch to propel us to a win.”

Young had never eclipsed 250 yards passing in a game prior to Sunday.

He said the loss “stings,” but he was encouraged by what he saw from Carolina’s offense.

“I think it is as good as we have looked as a unit,” Young said. “This was a good building block for us as a unit. We all stepped up and there is obviously still stuff to clean up and get better at. It wasn’t enough and we have to be better. But it is good place for us to build on.”

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