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Packers bungle game to Bengals

by Mark Daniels

The Green Bay Packers picked a pretty day in Cincinnati to play an ugly game, falling to the Bengals 34-30 before 64,633 fans, many donning green and gold.

The Pack was startled by an opening drive touchdown by Cincinnati, covering 80 yards in 10 plays with rookie Giovani Bernard leaping over Micah Hyde for a three yard run at the pylon.  On the ensuing kickoff, Jeremy Ross muffed a short kick, the Bengals covered it at the 2 and BenJarvus Green-Ellis smashed over on the next play and it was a 14-0 hole before Green Bay's offense even had a snap. Already shorthanded without Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn, the Pack lost Jermichael Finley on their first series, hit in the head by George Iloka, suffering a concussion.  It took the defense to spark the turnaround. Sam Shields picked off Andy Dalton at the Bengal 26 but the offense failed to pick up a first down so Mason Crosby put Green Bay on the board with a 41 yard field goal.  When A.J. Hawk recovered a Jermaine Gresham fumble two plays later, the Packers were in business at the Cincinnati 37.  A hold and a sack had the offense come up empty.  That's when the defense said the heck with it, we'll score ourselves.  The third turnover in just over two minutes was created when Brad Jones and Clay Matthews knocked the ball from Green-Ellis and M.D. Jennings scooped it up and raced 24 yards for a touchdown that made it a 14-10 game.  One more takeaway for good measure, Matthews jarred it loose from Dalton and the Packers had it back at the 21.   The drive stalled after it was first and goal at the five and Aaron Rodgers was visibly upset with the play calling.  After Crosby's 19 yard field goal, Rodgers was seen barking with Mike McCarthy on the sidelines.   Another goal to go series in the two minute drill fizzled with a sack but Crosby's third field goal on the final play of the half gave the Pack an incredible 16-14 lead.

When the third quarter began, both Matthews and James Starks, who rushed for 55 yards, were done as well.  Matthews had a pulled hamstring and Starks suffered a knee injury.  In stepped the last healthy back, rookie Johnathan Franklin.   On the first series of the third, Franklin scored on a two yard run and the next time the Packers had the ball, he ripped off a 51 yard dash.    That set up Rodgers' 7 yard touchdown pass to James Jones that pushed the lead to 30-14 but it was all downhill from there.   The Bengals answered with a 65 yard drive in just four plays, A.J. Green got behind Shields for a 20 yard touchdown catch.   Then the Packers caught the turnover bug.  Rodgers was picked off by Terrance Newman but Mike Nugent missed a 52 yard field goal try.  Three plays into th e4th quarter, with the Packers driving, Rodgers was picked again, this time on a sideline route by Leon Hall at his own five.   The Bengals then drove 95 yards and Marvin Jones caught an 11 yard TD to close the gap to 30-27.  It stayed that way when Datone Jones blocked th extra point.   Needing perhaps just three more points, the Packers cut six minutes off the clock and faced third and 12 at the Bengal 41.   Randall Cobb caught a slip screen and dove for the first down.  It was measured and he converted by inches.  That's when Marvin Lewis challenged the spot and won.  The officials said Cobb's knee landed a half yard short and the Pack faced 4th and one.  They gave it to Franklin and disaster struck.  He tried to dive over the top but the ball was knocked out.  Reggie Nelson picked it up but he fumbled when hit by Cobb.   Another fortuitous bounce into the hands of Newman who ran away from everyone, covering the final 58 yards for a touchdown that put the Bengals on top 34-30.   One last drive died on back to back batted balls by Cincy defensive linemen.   It was a game with a big hole, a big lead and a very big fumble.  Here's how Mike McCarthy summed it up:

Audio:  Mike McCarthy

The statistics looked good enough for the Pack.  They outgained the Bengals 399 to 297, outrushed by a hundred yards, 182-82 with Franklin topping out at 103 on 13 carries.  Rodgers however, had one of his poorest games.  A passer rating of 64.5 and his first two interception game since October of 2010.    The turnovers finished even, four a piece but Green Bay was just 2 of 4 in the red zone and goal to go situations while the Bengals were 3 for 3 and 2 for 2.  Cincinnati improves to 2-1 with the win while the Packers dip to 1-2 as they head into their very early bye week.   Here's what the players had to say about the game and the game's biggest plays.

Audio:  Packer players post game.

The injury news keeps getting worse with Finley, Starks and Matthews knocked out when Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, John Kuhn and Eddie Lacy were already ruled inactive because of injury.   Cincinnati now leads the all time series with the Pack at 7-5 and Green Bay will have to sit on this ugly loss for two weeks before returning against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau on October 6.