Packers let one get away after scoring 30 straight

Green Bay falls to 1-2 entering a very much-needed bye week
I would not have guessed the Green Bay Packers were capable of playing worse in the fourth quarter than in the first Sunday, when Cincinnati built a two-touchdown lead before Aaron Rodgers and the offense huddled Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Then again, who could have imagined the Packers scoring 30 unanswered points … and still losing to the Bengals, 34-30, on a day full of would’ve, could’ve and didn’t.
Who among us could have envisioned the Packers’ defense forcing four turnovers in as many second-quarter possessions … and still losing to Cincinnati?
This game felt a lot like Jeremy Ross and kickoffs – you know – the one that got away. Why Ross is returning kickoffs is one question that I cannot find an answer for. Ross isn’t explosive, certainly not to the level where it justifies the occasional mishandled kickoff or fumbled punt. At any rate, Ross isn’t the greatest single reason why the Packers lost.
There as many reasons as the Packers have hamstring injuries.
In fact, Clay Matthews’ absence after being sidelined with a hamstring injury had the greatest impact on the game’s outcome. With Matthews, the Packers’ defense was aggressive and dictating to the Bengals’ offense. Without him, it shrank into mediocrity and indecisiveness.
As uncomfortable as this may be for some Packers’ fans to consider, two underlying questions have been raised by Sunday’s loss:
For the second time in as many road losses, the Packers’ defense couldn’t hold a lead. The Packers led by four points with six minutes to play at San Francisco. Green Bay led by nine points with 10:55 to play. Once again, the defense couldn’t hold the lead.
When the last time Rodgers led the Packers to a fourth-quarter comeback victory? I’m not going to look it up because Rodgers is one of the NFL’s finest quarterbacks regardless of the numbers in fourth-quarter comebacks.
However, Rodgers uncharacteristically lost his cool and failed to keep his head in the game. There is no excuse for arguing with the head coach – and trust me, Rodgers wasn’t the only one displeased with McCarthy – but that doesn’t make the outburst OK.
Neither did the fact that for the second road game this season, Rodgers had the opportunity to drive Green Bay to a winning touchdown. It didn’t happen in either instance. Obviously, the Packers’ combination of coughing up fourth-quarter leads and failing to regain the lead in the critical moments isn’t good.
The injury situation isn’t good, either.
I swear the Packers have had 106 hamstring injuries on their 53-man roster. It is why the upcoming bye week is much-welcomed by Green Bay. Life without safety Morgan Burnett (he should be back for the Lions’ game Oct. 6) was difficult. Life without Matthews would be unbearable without the pass rusher.
Green Bay’s defense needs to figure out a way to thrive without Matthews, because that seemed an undoable task at Cincinnati.
The Bengals’ 14-point first quarter lead left Packers’ fans scratching their heads and realizing that:
A) There’s still a lot of game to play, and
B) Why is Jeremy Ross still on the roster?
Undaunted, Matthews and the Packers’ defense rose to the occasion, and frequently harassing Andy Dalton in the process. The Packers sacked Dalton four times, but give the kid credit. He stayed with it and ultimately outplayed Rodgers by a long shot.
Dalton finished 20 of 28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns for a 105.5 quarterback rating. Rodgers was 26 of 43 for 244 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He finished with a 64.5 quarterback rating.
“It was a frustrating game,” Rodgers said. “We spot ‘em 14, score 30 in a row and they get 20. I played poorly and the defense played well enough for us to win.”
It was kind of Rodgers to credit the defense, even if it wasn’t warranted.
The defense was one of several frustrating aspects to what one Bengals’ player described as – and accurately so – a “weird game.”
Jermichael Finley sure looked defenseless to me when he was drilled in the helmet on the play that sidelined him. Finley got tattooed and the Bengals’ defender should have been penalized. It was a vicious hit.
There were several others, but I haven’t the time or the temperament right now to list them all.
McCarthy certainly showed poor decision-making when he elected to skip the field goal attempt in favor of going for it on fourth-and-1. Jonathan Franklin had an outstanding game aside from one play. It was a play McCarthy had no business calling, not in that situation, and not with that player (the rookie Franklin) carrying the football.
A bootleg with Rodgers would have been ideal. I’m not second-guessing, either. I was saying as much before the snap. McCarthy’s sense of risk-reward befuddles at times. If he is going to go for it on fourth-and-1, why not at the goal line, where the reward is a touchdown? Yet going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 30? With a 30-27 lead on the road?
It makes no sense. Fortunately, I have a bye week to get over it.
And the Packers have a bye week to figure it out.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.