Cam Newton had other plans.
The Panthers quarterback threw for four touchdowns as part of a stellar afternoon that saw him lead Carolina to a 31-24 win over the returning Rodgers and his Packers.
Rodgers looked noticeably rusty against a swarming Panthers defense, throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions. It was his first game with three interceptions since Nov. 8, 2009. The Pro Bowl quarterback returned Sunday after a two-month with a broken collarbone.
Down a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, Rodgers nearly led the Packers back. He hit Richard Rodgers for a 24-yard touchdown with 2:43 left, and then the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick. But Green Bay's final mistake of the day—a Geronimo Allison fumble on a reception deep inside Panthers territory—won the game for Carolina.
Newton, by contrast, was brilliant throughout. The 2015 NFL MVP threw for 242 yards and four scores with 60 yards on his 13 carries. The passing game looked rejuvenated with a seemingly healthy Greg Olsen, who led all pass-catchers with 116 yards and a score on nine receptions.
Christian McCaffery totaled 136 yards from scrimmage in one of his best games as a pro. The rookie running back had nine touches on the Panthers' first possession and got to his yardage total on six receptions and 12 carries.
Damiere Byrd was surprisingly the recipient of two Newton touchdown passes. Byrd had never made a touchdown reception in his career before this weekend. Devin Funchess was the only Panthers position player to disappoint, finishing with a sole reception for 19 yards.
The Packers had three different players catch a touchdown, led by Randall Cobb's 84 yards on seven receptions. Richard Rodgers (four receptions, 77 yards) and Davante Adams (five receptions, 57 yards) also hauled in scores.
Adams left the game in the third quarter on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. He was diagnosed with a concussion, his third of the past two seasons. Davis will likely face some form of discipline for the hit, which came on Adams' blind side when he was defenseless.
The Packers' loss almost certainly takes them out of the postseason race, which could create some question about whether Rodgers continues to play at under 100 percent. At 7-7, they will be behind at least four and potentially five teams in the race for the final spot in the NFC.
One of those teams is Carolina, which is tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South. The Saints hold the tiebreaker between the two teams by virtue of their two head-to-head victories.
Carolina next plays on Christmas Eve against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers host the division-leading Minnesota Vikings next Saturday.