Cam Newton shined Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, but the rookie's mistakes caught up with him.
After leading 13-0 early in the game, the Panthers (0-2) gave up turnovers on four of the next six possessions, including three interceptions by the rookie quarterback. Green Bay (2-0) took advantage of the takeaways, scoring 23 unanswered points on its way to a 30-23 win at Bank of America Stadium.
Despite throwing the picks in the game, Newton had 432 passing yards, topping his rookie record 422 yards in his debut last week against Arizona. He joins an elite list of quarterbacks to throw for two-straight 400-plus yard games that includes Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, Billy Volek, Matt Cassel and Tom Brady.
Still, Newton accepts responsibility of the loss on his shoulders.
"Going into the game, coach asked the quarterbacks the things it takes to win," Newton said. "I don't think I followed the No. 1 rule and that was protecting the football. Throwing picks is one thing, but constant turnovers is unacceptable. You can't expect to win if you turn the ball over."
The Panthers proved early on in the game Sunday they weren't going to lay down for the visiting "green and gold."
Looking nothing like a rookie, Newton completed 6-of-7 passes on Carolina's opening drive for 75 yards, including an opening play of 23 yards to Jeremy Shockey that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Newton capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell in the right corner of the end zone, which was upheld upon a replay.
"I just had a simple fade route," LaFell said. "Cam just threw it up and let me make a play."
It went from bad to worse for the Packers on their first kick return. Receiver Randall Cobb, who returned a third quarter kickoff 108 yards for a score last week against New Orleans, fumbled after being hit by linebacker Jordan Senn. The ball was recovered by Panthers' safety Sean Considine.
The Panthers used the turnover to go up 10-0 behind a field goal from veteran kicker Olindo Mare.
Struggling to move the ball in the first quarter against a tough Carolina defense, Green Bay netted only 14 yards of total offense — 13 of which came on two passing plays by Rodgers.
Things changed for the Packers in the second quarter, behind the Super Bowl MVP's arm. Rodgers completed 8-of-15 passes for 85 yards in the quarter, most of which came on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that took up 4:50 in the start of the second quarter.
"We didn't (Rodgers) down as much as we wanted to," Rivera said. "We had an opportunity to have some success, get after him and create something. Unfortunately, we just didn't do that."
Fullback John Kuhn finished the drive, plunging in from one yard out on second and goal to put the visitors on the board for the first time, cutting the lead to 13-7 in the process.
Newton began to show his first signs of weakness in the quarter. He was intercepted by Woodson on the second drive of the second quarter on a pass intended for Steve Smith. Despite the mistake, the Panthers carried the 13-7 lead into halftime.
The Packers wasted little time trying to get ahead in the game. They traveled 80 yards in five plays in 2:37, scoring on a 49-yard pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings.
Woodson had Newton's number for the second time in the game two drives later. Woodson, a 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, intercepted 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Newton, putting the Packers in the red zone to start their drive.
"Charles Woodson has been dominating this game on the cornerback position for a long time," Newton said. "I have so much respect for him and a lot of players on that defense. Those guys are sound at what they do and are coachable. They know what they have to do. They understand the game. They understand the down and distance. It's hard to beat that when you make a mistake because you know they will capitalize on that."
A stout performance by the Panthers defense, thought, yielded only a Mason Crosby 37-yard field goal, which increased Green Bay's lead to four.
Yet another hopeful Panthers scoring attempt on the next drive was cut short too soon. After a 10-yard completion to DeAngelo Williams on the next drive, Newton threw a pass to Smith, who ran 25 yards.
Before going out of bounds on the right side of the field though, Smith moved the football from his left to right hand and fumbled the football trying to extend for a few extra yards.
The fumble was recovered by Woodson for his third takeaway of the game. Woodson also had five tackles in Sunday's game.
Once again though, Carolina's defense held and Crosby kicked a 19-yard field goal. After scoring the game's first 13 points, Carolina gave up 20 unanswered points to the Packers.
"When you have a team down, you have to keep them down," Newton said. "You can't just keep them in the game. When we have opportunities to score, we have to put seven points on the board because it's only a matter of time until any good team is going to react."
The confidence Newton built in the game's opening moments continued to shatter. A pass play to Legedu Naanee on third down and 10 went over the receiver's head and was picked off by Morgan Burnett, Newton's third thrown interception. The turnover surrendered a third-straight field goal by Crosby, this time from 34 yards out.
The Panthers needed a touchdown, but a 13-play, 77-yard drive stalled within the five-yard line. Carolina had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Mare to keep them within a score of the lead, 23-16.
Not giving their opponents a chance to tie, the Packers sealed the game on the next drive with a 84-yard pass from Rodgers to receiver Jordy Nelson that took two plays, 96 yards and 55 seconds.
Following a long 62-yard reception by Smith, Newton scored six plays later on a four-yard run with 1:37 remaining. Smith finished with a team-high 156 receiving yards on six catches.
The Packers recovered an ensuing onside kick, Rodgers knelt down and ran out the remaining 26 seconds on the clock.
Rivera is excited with what he's seeing from his team in his first year as coach, but realizes where they went wrong against Green Bay.
"We are converting and making plays down the field," Rivera said. "It's just a matter of time. The most disappointing thing is we had an opportunity to win the football game. Our guys gave us a chance. At the same time, we took away that chance."
Understanding his bad choices, Newton said he'll improve upon the gaffes he made in Sunday's contest.
"The more I see it, the more I know it's not college anymore," Newton said. "There aren't any gimmicks in this league, especially against a good football team. We played an excellent team in the Packers and they capitalize on each and every one of your mistakes."
The Panthers will try to rebound Sunday when they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) to Bank of America Stadium. The Jaguars are coming off of a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.