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Aaron Jones hits paydirt 3 times as Green Bay Packers fend off Carolina Panthers, 24-16

The Packers’ Preston Smith reacts after a sack during the second half against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Green Bay, Wis. (AP photo)

GREEN BAY, Wis. — A matchup featuring two MVP candidates turned into a stage for a third player to make his case to be included in the MVP conversation.

Preston Smith and Green Bay’s defense stopped MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey at the goal line as time expired and the Packers defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-16 on a snowy Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Aaron Jones scored three rushing touchdowns for the second time this season to lead Green Bay (8-2), which improved to 5-2 all-time against the Panthers at home. Jones is the first Packers player since Sterling Sharpe in 1994 with multiple three-touchdown games in a season. Jones is also the first Green Bay running back since Jim Taylor in 1962 with multiple three-touchdown games in a season. Taylor did it three times that year.

“We all know that Christian is a very talented player, and he’s been mentioned in the MVP race. So maybe it’s time to start talking about Aaron Jones,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

The Panthers got the ball with 2:25 left on their own 11-yard line, trailing by eight. Quarterback Kyle Allen drove Carolina down the field, including completing a 12-yard pass to D.J. Moore on fourth-and-10 with 56 seconds left. The Panthers also benefited from an offsides penalty with 13 seconds remaining to convert another fourth down. After Allen threw an incompletion to McCaffrey, the Packers stopped him just short of the end zone as time expired. A brief replay review upheld the call.

“We still had an opportunity to get in,” McCaffrey said. “And at the end of the day, no matter who gets it, you’ve got to make that one yard.”

Five of the last six meetings between the teams now have been decided by eight points or less.

Rodgers was held out of the end zone, but the two-time MVP completed 17 of 29 passes for 233 yards, including 118 yards to Davante Adams.

McCaffrey had a relatively quiet 108 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries for the Panthers (5-4).

Allen completed 28 of 43 attempts for 307 yards. He also had two costly turnovers.

Allen fumbled with 12:46 to play in the second. Montravius Adams recovered it for the Packers, and Rodgers linked up with Devante Adams for a 37-yard gain two plays later. The reception set up Jones’ second score of the night, a 1-yard run that put the Packers ahead 14-10 in the second quarter.