Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin rushes into the end zone for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Johnathan Franklin: Don't blame the rookie for this Green Bay Packers loss

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Green Bay Packers running back Johnathan Franklin scored a touchdown and ran for 100 yards today. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Much will be written over the next couple of weeks about the woulda, shoulda and couldas when it comes to the Green Bay Packers 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Much of that discussion will center around one play – the fourth and inches play where rookie running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled while diving over the pile – a play that resulted in the fumble being returned by the Bengals for what turned out to be the game-winning score.

We can all point our fingers at Franklin not securing the ball on the play, but we all know that wasn’t the game-turning play that made all the difference.

Yes, it came at crunch time and at a time when the momentum was clearly in Cincinnati’s corner. Yes, Franklin was the one who fumbled the ball away, but lay off the guy. The game wasn’t decided on this play alone and there was plenty of blame to go around in this one. If ever there was one, this was a team loss.

Dropped passes, penalties, interceptions, and the inability to score points when the opportunity presented itself were all involved in today’s loss.

Franklin, who came into the game at the start of the second half, did something only one other player has done in the past 45 games – rush for 100 yards or more.

The rookie was playing because starting running back James Starks went down with a leg injury at the end of the first half.

All Franklin did was rush 13 times for 103 yards, catch three passes for 23 yards and score a touchdown. Maybe Coach Mike McCarthy gave him the ball on that fourth down to try to give him the confidence rookies need. It didn’t turn out that way.

But we’ve got to be pleased with what we’ve seen from the rookie. He had a poor preseason and nobody really knew what he might do if he was thrown into the lineup with the starters.

Today we found out and we also found another back who will only add depth to the team as the season rolls on.

So, if you’re pointing fingers at Franklin, you might reconsider. This was his coming out party and we should be happy with what we saw.

When the Packers get Eddie Lacy back and add in John Kuhn as the fullback, the Packers will be OK for some time to come in the offensive backfield.

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