After falling behind by two scores on the road in Green Bay, the Carolina Panthers found themselves within inches of a chance to pull off an unlikely upset of the Packers.
But Christian McCaffrey came up just short of the goal line as the clock ran out on a frantic rally that ended in a 24-16 Green Bay win.
The Panthers found themselves in position to tie the game after a fourth-quarter touchdown and forced Packers punt set them up with the ball at their own 11-yard line with 2:24 remaining.
Kyle Allen leads Panthers march
Cam Newton fill-in Kyle Allen, playing in just his ninth NFL game, proceeded to march the Panthers into the Packers territory on a snowy, hostile night in Green Bay.
Things looked bleak when Carolina faced fourth-and-10 from the Packers 25 with 56 seconds remaining. But Allen found wideout D.J. Moore open in the left flat for a 12-yard gain and new set of downs.
After three more plays that included a neutral-zone infraction from the Packers, the Panthers found themselves in another fourth-down situation, this time with one yard to go at the Packers four-yard line.
Packers penalty gives Panthers new life
Allen fell under immediate pressure and saw his desperation heave to McCaffrey hit the ground, apparently putting an end to the game. McCaffrey pleaded for a pass interference flag that didn’t come.
But a yellow flag did land on the sideline. Packers linebacker Preston Smith had been caught offside, giving the Panthers a new set of downs at the two-yard line with eight seconds remaining.
Replay showed that Smith had lined up on the correct side of the line of scrimmage, but leaned over the line before the snap.
There was reasonable time for two more plays for Carolina. Allen’s pass into the right flat to McCaffrey hit the ground, leaving the Panthers with one last shot with four seconds remaining.
Did McCaffrey reach the goal line?
They once again looked to their MVP-candidate running back, this time handing off to McCaffrey, who ran into traffic at the line of scrimmage but spun his way toward the goal line with the help of guard Greg Van Roten, who pulled him toward the end zone after the two collided.
Officials ruled McCaffrey short of the goal line, but took an extra look at the run on replay to confirm. Confirm they did. No touchdown. Packers survive.
Green Bay picked up a critical win to improve to 8-2 as they compete with the 7-2 New Orleans Saints and 8-0 San Francisco 49ers for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
The Panthers fell painfully short of a big win and dropped to 5-4, on the outside looking in on the NFC wild card race.
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