It sucks, but the Green Bay Packers (1-2) did lose against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) on Sunday, 34-30. And yes, the Packers started and ended Sunday’s game in horrendous fashion once again in this short tale of a season.
“It was wild what happened,” Packers outside-linebacker Clay Matthews said. “That’s two very good playoff-caliber teams out there, and they made more plays than us to win the ball game.”
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy called it a game of “peaks and valleys”. The Bengals led by 14 points only six minutes into the game. The Packers responded by forcing four turnovers and scoring 30 unanswered points.
Matthews left Sunday’s game early in the second-half with a hamstring injury and had front row seats to three Packer turnovers in the second half and 20 unanswered Bengals points.
“It was a frustrating game,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Down 14 points, score 30, then they finish with 20, it is disappointing. I felt like we gave the game away with a lot of turnovers.”
The Packers were without running backs Eddie Lacy (concussion) and John Kuhn (hamstring) and lost tight end Jermichael Finley (concussion) during the Packers’ first offensive series of the game.
“Losing Jermichael, he was a feature player,” McCarthy said. “I thought our quarterback was probably most affected by that.”
Their quarterback, Rodgers, completed 26 of 43 passes for a season-low 244 yards and one touchdown, while throwing a season-high two interceptions.
“I played poorly,” Rodgers said. “I expect to play well every week and it didn’t happen. We ran the ball effectively, but didn’t throw as well as we have the first couple of weeks.”
Veteran James Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin combined to rush for 158 yards and one touchdown. Franklin had 103 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut in relief of Starks, who suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter.
“James Starks was in a groove,” McCarthy said. “Johnathan (Franklin) came in and he did a heck of a job.”
“He is a shifty back,” Starks said about Franklin. “He did well, got the defense tired. I think he did a good job of coming in and doing what he needed to do.”
Both the Packers and Bengals defensive units forced four turnovers and recorded four sacks in the game, but the difference was fourth-quarter production and redzone touchdowns
The Bengals outscored the Packers 13-0 in the fourth quarter and all four of the Bengals’ redzone possessions resulted in touchdowns. The Packers had four offensive possessions in the redzone, but only two of those possessions resulted in touchdowns (the other two resulted in field goals).
Through three games, opponents have outscored the Packers 39-7 in the fourth quarter. The frustration clearly began mounting at an earlier point in the game, as Rodgers and McCarthy were both caught arguing with each other on camera late in the first half.
“Anytime you get into a situation with change and rhythm it’s frustrating,” McCarthy said. “I had called a play during a certain situation and he (Rodgers) was frustrated by it. He is competitive man, that is what I love about him. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal.”
“We’re both passionate and competitive about the game,” Rodgers said. “We want to win badly. I talked to him, got on the same page and moved on.”
Both defensive units also forced the opposing offenses to successfully convert on less than 50% of third downs, but the Packers were unable to connect on two crucial fourth-down conversions.
With the Packers leading the Bengals 30-27 and driving deep into Bengals territory in the fourth quarter, Rodgers completed a 3rdand 12 pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb for what was initially ruled a first-down. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis challenged the spot of the ball and replay showed that Cobb was down just short of a fresh set of downs.
McCarthy decided to keep his offense on the field for 4th down and inches in favor of a 47-yard field goal—and the worst thing possible had happened. Franklin fumbled the football while leaping above the trenches, the scrum for the loose ball was picked up by Bengals cornerback Terrence Newman at the 42 and returned 58 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I felt we could convert it, but we didn’t get it done,” McCarthy said. “That is professional playcalling—when it works it is excellent execution. If it doesn’t, it’s the playcaller’s fault.”
“This is what we love and have a passion for and it is tough when you lose a game,” Franklin said. “It’s life—we are always learning everyday. If you aren’t moving forward you’re moving backwards.”
On the ensuing possession for the Packers, from the Bengals 25, Rodgers 4thand five pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by 6’7 Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, sealing the game for good.
The Packers couldn’t finish again, as injuries and late-game mistakes haunted this team once again. The Packers have a bye next weekend and the timing couldn’t be any more perfect.
“We are definitely going to get ready to make a run (during the bye week),” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I see a lot of good things out of this team.”
“We got to get healthy,” Rodgers said. “We got to get everyone back and see what we can do at full-strength. It is what it is. We are 1-2 right now.”
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