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Monday, Sept. 23, 2013

Costly Turnovers Nullify Defensive Heroics; Packers Fall to Cincy 34-30

Looking Pack: Week Three

packers vs bengals 2013
Jim Biever / Packers.com
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Sunday’s meeting of the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals offered all the excitement, huge plays and defensive excellence of a match-up tabbed by many NFL pundits to be a potential Super Bowl precursor. However, a pair of Packers turnovers that bookended an otherwise dominant performance found Green Bay on the wrong end of a dramatic contest.

After Andy Dalton drove the Bengals to paydirt in an effortless opening drive that culminated in an acrobatic Giovani Bernard rushing touchdown, Jeremy Ross continued his less-than-impressive tenure as Packers returner by muffing a kickoff. Ross’ mistake essentially gift wrapped a Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis touchdown from two yards out to put Cincinnati up 14-0 before Green Bay’s offense even took the field. Although, even when Aaron Rodgers and company made their way out from the sidelines, it didn’t seem to matter in the first quarter that saw the Green Bay’s offense stalling twice and having possession for under 4:30 total (not to mention Jermichael Finley exiting the game with a concussion). However, a Sam Shields interception in the waning moments of the first quarter set up a 41-yard Mason Crosby field goal and served to preview a big time Packers defensive showing that would last through the half.

The next Bengals possession was cut short after Brad Jones forced a Jermaine Gresham fumble. After yet another fruitless Packers possession, Clay Matthews forced another fumble. The Green-Ellis cough-up was toted 24 yards to the end zone by M.D. Jennings to put Green Bay behind by a mere 14-10 margin. A Dalton fumble on the subsequent drive was the fourth Cincy turnover in a nine-play span. Fortunately for the bungling Bengals, Green Bay couldn’t do much more with a short field than add three more points. Before the half, Crosby added another chip shot to give the Packers its first lead (16-14) before the team returned to their respective locker rooms.

When Green Bay returned to the field, James Starks—who expanded on his tremendous game last week with 55 first half rushing yards—didn’t join them on account of a knee injury he’d sustained in the second quarter. Rookie rusher Johnathan Franklin stepped to replace Starks (who, himself, was replacing the concussed Eddie Lacy). The speedy back kick-started the previously absent Packers offense with a rushing touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. A 51-yard run by Franklin set up a Rodgers-to-James Jones touchdown strike on the subsequent Green Bay drive to put the Packers up 30-14.

However, Green Bay’s run of 30 unanswered points would grow no larger, as Shield’s force field around Cincinnati star receiver A.J. Green temporarily went down. A 20-yard strike to Green stopped the Bengals’ bleeding, as Green Bay’s lead shrunk to 30-21 with a quarter to go. From there, the turnover pendulum swung in Cincy’s favor. Rodgers, who was under pressure most of the afternoon and sacked four times, wasn’t himself—as he showed with two interceptions in the late going (one of which can be blamed on James Jones cutting a route short). The second Rodgers pick led to a Dalton-Marvin Jones connection. Datone Jones blocked the extra point attempt, leaving Green Bay up 30-27 with 10:55 to go.

Though Rodgers’ miscues put the game within Cincinnati’s grasp, the last Packers turnover swung it entirely in the Bengals’ favor. Franklin’s outstanding second half that included 103 rushing yards (and a staggering 7.9-yard average) was negated on a pivotal fourth and one. Not only did he fall short, he fumbled. Bengals cornerback Terrance Newman took the ball 58 yards to the promise land to give the Bengals the insurmountable 34-30 lead. Each team took turns handing over momentum to its counterpart, but Green Bay’s mistakes simply proved to be less timely and more costly as the team now heads into the bye week nursing the wounds of a 1-2 start.

 
Player Of The Game (Offense) – Johnathan Franklin

Even though his fumble wound up costing the Packers the game, the electric runner’s 126 total yards in the second half were a large part of why the Packers temporarily held such a commanding lead in the first place. 


Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – M.D. Jennings

Sam Shields deserves mention for his four tackles, interception and holding A.J. Green to just 46 yards. Brad Jones had 11 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Yet Jennings’ fumble return touchdown, sack and four tackles makes him the best performer of a defensive unit that played well enough to warrant a win.

Up next: Hosting the Detroit Lions on Sunday, October 6 at noon.