The Green Bay Packers went into Cincinnati and laid an egg today, losing to the Bengals 34-30 in a game that featured eight combined turnovers between the two teams, seven total fumbles, clutch performances, horrible officiating, and big plays for both teams.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again friends: it’s not much fun writing about the Packers when they lose. Let the blamestorming begin!
Talk about a see-saw performance! The Packers spotted Cincinnati 14 points and then scored 30 unanswered points to take the lead and the momentum. Then they allowed Cincinnati to score 20 more points, also unanswered, and failed to convert critical plays down the stretch when they were still in a position to win the game. When the chips were down the Packers simply seemed to choke.
The stats tell some, but not all, of the story. The Packers had 27 first downs to 19 for Cincinnati. The Bengals didn’t need as many first downs because the Packers gave them a short field too many times in this game.
The Packers defense did not allow a 100 yard rusher or receiver for the first time this season. On paper that looks like a positive, but when the plays occurred the Bengals made enough yards to stay in the game. The Packers had 182 net yards rushing and 399 yards of offense. Considered objectively this kind of offensive production would have almost guaranteed a victory, especially when the Bengals had “only” 297 yards of offensive production. Big plays by the Bengals made all the difference.
In the latest installment of the Packers M*A*S*H* list, TE Jermichael Finley, RB James Starks, LB Clay Matthews, and late in the game RB Jonathan Franklin all went down with injuries. Finley in particular took a nasty borderline-legal shot to the head while nearly on the ground. Watching 88 try to stagger off the field after the play probably provided some LOL moments for the insensitive among us. Starks had a knee (again), Matthews had a hamstring (again) and Franklin had a knee (again). Luckily the upcoming bye week will allow these latest injury-listers to have a better chance to get back for the Detroit game at Lambeau.
Here are my Chest Bumps and Thumps from the Packers- Bengals game:
Chest Bump- to Jonathan Franklin. Franklin came in when James Starks went out with a knee injury after halftime. He had an immediate impact and ended up rushing for 103 yards, caught three passes for another 23 yards, and perhaps most importantly did a good job in pass pro when he was called upon to do so. His only real error was his fumble on fourth and short late in the game. On balance he did a good job and he probably shut some of his critics up. Fix the ball security issue and the Packers seemingly have another offensive weapon ready to contribute.
Thump- to the Packers offensive line. The O line again turned in a sub-standard performance. They allowed four sacks, way too many hits and hurries on Rodgers, and were in general overmatched and it showed. In the run game they did open some holes but most of the yards on the ground came on plays that were not straight ahead run plays. I’ve said many times now that the O line is a work in progress. However, it can’t be as inconsistent as it is right now if the Packers expect to win enough games to get into the playoffs. It might be time for a talent infusion via trade or maybe some shuffling of assignments.
Chest Bump- to James Starks. Starks did good work again this week until he was injured right before halftime. He came away with 55 yards in 14 carries and looked strong. When the Packers evaluate their RBs during the bye I think Starks still adds some toughness to the running attack. We can only hope he can get healthy and stay that way. Packers RBs are dropping like flies out there. With Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn both out for this game Starks and Franklin were the only available RBs to begin the game.
Thump- to the officials. I’m not exactly an objective observer, but there sure seemed to be a whole bunch of penalties that were conspicuously not called out there today. On many of the Packers pass plays in this game there was holding, interference, or both going on in the Cincinnati defensive backfield. The Bengals were using their helmets as weapons an awful lot too. By using I mean leading with them. That’s supposed to be illegal in this league now…right? Well I guess I shouldn’t have expected a whole lot more from the same officiating crew that worked the San Francisco game in Week 1. At one point I remarked that “they had their laundry sewn inside their wastebands” when the Bengals needed a call, or a call to be missed today. Flags didn’t come out when they should have and did come out when they weren’t appropriate. NFL League offices…I don’t suppose you read this each week but that crew needs to be downgraded if not actually run out of town on rails!
Chest Bump- to Jordy Nelson. Jordy again had some spectacular sideline catches today. If he’s not already regarded as one of the best receivers in the game it’s because the pundits are looking in the wrong place or at the wrong buys. His combination of sideline savvy, toughness, sure-handedness, speed, and smarts are rare. The Packers still have the best receiving corps in the league. Nelson can be as modest as he wants, but he’s my MVP right now.
Thump- to the Bengals. What a bunch of thugs! Junk punches. Flops. Muggings. If the laws the rest of us are expected to obey were applied to the behavior of the Bengals defense in this game many of them would be behind bars for assault, battery, not-illegal-but-reprehensible acts of rule bending, stretching, and outright disregard. I get that the refs can’t see everything, but it looks like the Bengals have been coached exceedingly well at how to get away with borderline (and some not so borderline) penalties.
Chest Bump- to M.D. Jennings. Without his heads-up return of the Matthews-induced fumble for a TD early in the second quarter the Packers might have been in the tank earlier in the game and almost certainly wouldn’t have been in it at the end. Jennings also had a sack of Dalton and three tackles in the game. He made plays when he had opportunities to make them…something not all Packers have managed to consistently do this season. Nice work 43!
Chest Bump- to the Packers inside LBs. Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk had good games against the Bengals. Jones led the team with nine tackles, two assists, and a forced fumble that didn’t lead to points but helped stop the bleeding early. Hawk had six tackles, three assists, and recovered a fumble. Both ILBs looked strong at the point of attack and contributed to the defense holding the Bengals under 100 rushing yards with no rusher over 50 yards.
Chest Bump- to Sam Shields. Sam had a nice ball-skills pick of Dalton and played matched up with Bengals WR A.J. Green for most of the game. He allowed 4 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. Not impressive by itself, but considering Green is six or seven inches taller than Shields and he is regarded as the best WR on the Bengals roster, I think Sam did a good job. If it weren’t for Green getting away with offensive pass interference Shields might not have allowed the TD either. Not perfect, but solid work by Shields today.
Thump- to Tramon Williams. Tramon was flagged early in the fourth quarter for unnecessary roughness when he manhandled Bengals WR Marvin Jones out of bounds. This was completely unnecessary but not really roughness. Seriously…Williams started to tackle the receiver on the field and momentum took them out of bounds, where Williams finished the tackle. All of which brings me back to the officials in general and the crew that worked this game in particular. There were several plays made along the sideline in this game that could have drawn flags. Most did not. So how about some consistency refs?
Thump- to Jeremy Ross. This one is easy. Ross set up the Bengals second touchdown when he muffed a short kickoff. He’s been a liability on special teams for too long now. I advocated his use as the dedicated returner as opposed to using Randall “Cobbernicus” Cobb early and often, but he’s cost the team too much to be allowed to continue doing the job. The only high point for Ross was when he correctly (and somewhat ironically) handled the out-of-bounds kickoff after the Bengals scored their third touchdown.
Thump- to Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps a half-hearted thump, but a thump nonetheless. Rodgers threw two picks in this game. The first, a throw to James Jones on an in route, appeared to be Jones’ fault because he cut his route off. The second, down the sideline to Randall Cobb, was all on Rodgers. Cobb wasn’t open, nor did it appear he would come open to make the catch or be able to back-shoulder it. Rodgers was off on several shorter throws and in general didn’t seem to be sharp. Granted he was running for his life because of the poor performance of his offensive line, but Rodgers has played much better than he did today when the O line did not. The leader of the offense and the highest-paid player in the galaxy has to play better than he did against the Bengals today.
On the final drive of the game the Packers had no healthy running backs available…Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict made a case for an Oscar when he executed that reprehensible yet occasionally convincing maneuver known as the flop after his junk punch of TE Ryan Taylor…Taylor was then flagged for unnecessary roughness for retaliating…Burfict joined the players-who-have-junk- punched-other-players club…By not executing a game-winning drive at the end of this game Aaron Rodgers will have to answer a lot of questions about his perceived inability in that regard…Mason Crosby was (knock wood) perfect again today…LT David Bakhtiari missed a block on the Bengals defender who ended up breaking up the fourth down pass that ended the final drive…DT Datone Jones blocked the PAT that at the time might have spelled the difference in the final score…The last time the Packers forced six turnovers and lost was in 1955…Aaron Rodgers may have sustained a concussion on the sideline play when he was hit by a defender leading with his helmet- stop me if you’ve heard this before…Packers fans at Tailgators outnumbered and out-yelled fans of all the other teams and rolled with the punches during the game…nearly all Packers fans present today had either lived in Wisconsin and attended Packers games at Lambeau or had made the pilgrimage at least once to Green bay for a Packers game at Lambeau. All were unanimous in their praise for the city, the stadium, the team, and the people of Green Bay and the Packers.
With regard to the Fearsome Predictions I made prior to the game, I have to say I missed more than I hit. I certainly didn’t see this game playing out the way it did from the injury standpoint. Even though I’m a little discouraged I’ll keep doing them. So watch out readers. You still can’t stop me from making Fearsome Predictions. You can only hope to contain me.
The Green Bay Packers are now 1-2 and go into their very early season bye week reeling with more questions than answers. They need to get healthy and fix some glaring offensive line issues. It would be great to consistently be able to run the ball with the kind of effectiveness that the offense has shown in spots so far this season. There is no substitute for an effective running game. Of all teams the Packers must know this. They have good RBs (when healthy). It’s time to stop talking about it and do it.
Bring on the bye week! Get some guys healthy. Solve some issues in the offensive line and defensive secondary. Get ready for Detroit.
So far the 2013 season seems to be about inconsistent performances. Those are fixable problems. Hey Packers fans…look at the positive. At least you’re not rooting for the Giants or Vikings!
Go Pack GO!