Packers XLV

In Cincinnati & Around the NFL, A Strange Day Indeed

Posted September 23rd, 2013 @ 12:09am

It was a strange Sunday in the NFL. The 49ers got pounded at home by the Colts. The Giants got shellacked 38-0 by the Panthers. The Browns won at the Metrodome. OK, maybe that wasn't so strange. But what happened in Cincinnati, in the day's most entertaining game, was one for the ages.

Never before had a team taken a 14 point lead, fallen behind by 16 and then come back to win. But the Bengals accomplished it, thanks to a doomed fourth and inches call that Mike McCarthy will be replaying in his mind all night, and for the next few nights. After a challenge took away a Packers first down, McCarthy was faced with either sending Mason Crosby out for a 48 yard attempt to increase the lead to six, or he could go for it and try to punch it in and seal the win. He chose the latter, but then handed off to his slight rookie, Johnathan Franklin, whose brilliant second half was erased by a fumble on the play--one that was scooped up and taken in for the winning touchdown.

I don't fault McCarthy for trying to get the first down, but why not sneak Rodgers for the few inches you needed, rather than hand it to his small, exhausted rookie seeing his first action as a pro and ask him to move the pile. It was merely the last of many turnovers on the day and fittingly, the team that coughed it up last, lost.

When the Pack fell into a 14-0 hole before Rodgers had even taken the field, you had the feeling it was too big a hole against a playoff team at their place. But the Bengals turned generous, turning it over four times in the second quarter. When Green Bay settled for field goal after field goal, you felt a little uneasy that you were leaving points on the table.

A two-point lead at the half grew to 30-14 in the third quarter, despite the news that James Starks (knee) and Clay Matthews (oh no, not the hammy again) were done for the day. Franklin got things cooking on the ground and some Bengals penalties assisted a passing game that was off kilter all afternoon, especially after losing Jermichael Finley early to a concussion.

The Packers played the second half without Lacy, Kuhn, Starks and Finley on offense and without Matthews, Burnett and Hayward on defense. That's a short-handed team that still almost stole a road win against a quality team. Mike Zimmer's defense made just enough plays, got just enough pressure, knocked down just enough balls to eke out the win.

Now the team has two weeks to try to get as many players back healthy as possible. They'll also be on the lookout for a new return guy. I think there's a good chance Jeremy Ross has seen his last action as a Packer returner. The fumble in the first quarter was inexcusable and he almost made a boneheaded play in the fourth quarter, when he touched a kickoff at the two--just as it went out of bounds. He almost put his offense at the goal line at a critical point in the game.

Road losses in San Francisco and Cincinnati won't kill you. You might recall the Pack lost a heartbreaker in week three last year too (in Seattle) to fall to 1-2. They rebounded to win 10 of their last 13 and we could be in for a repeat. The schedule loosens up in October, beginning with the Lions at Lambeau. If the team gets most of its key injured guys back in two weeks, we could see the beginning of a nice run.

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Comments (13):

Sometimes it's ok to kick a field goal and defend a 6 point lead late in the fourth quarter. It's one of the axioms of coaching: when you're on the road against a good team and in close on fourth down, play the percentages and come away with points. But hey, it's not like the Pack lost at home to the Browns, right? I've said before that these first 3 games were an extended preseason for the Packers. In the presesason they looked at players for the team. In these early games they are looking at the team they expect to take to the playoffs. They've shown enough in these games to raise confidence in another winning, playoff season but still have enough work to do to close the gap on Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta in the NFC for the Super Bowl. The injuries piling up is the most serious threat to the team's title hopes as of now. We haven't seen or gotten the benefit of Eddie Lacy, Casey Hayward or Morgan Burnett yet and hopefully won't see Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley or James Starks out of action for long. Against the 49ers and Bengals we can see the o-line being a weak link against teams with solid, aggresive, physical defensive fronts. The line has to move the other people back on those "fourth and inches" situations such as cost the Packers today's game. The bye comes at a good time this year. When Detroit comes in to Lambeau in two weeks we will hopefully see the 2013 Packers at full strength and peak efficiency and march to another NFC North title.

on September 22nd, 2013 at 10:14pm

one more quick take. I listened to the game on the radio and I just kept hoping that MM would call a screen play to Franklin. I thought it would be a perfect play if the D-line was getting so much push into Rodgers. Maybe watching the game would have given me a different take. Any other thoughts on this? To be honest, we dont screen that much and I think we should more, it would hold the defense back a little bit.

on September 23rd, 2013 at 01:54pm

on September 23rd, 2013 at 06:28am

Can someone pleaseeeeeeeeee explain all the hammy injuries in Green Bay?

on September 23rd, 2013 at 07:15pm

I agree Ross shouldn't be on special teams, which pretty much means he shouldn't be on this roster. In 3 of the last 4 games he's put this team in very difficult situations. His fate will tell us a lot about Coach McCarthy. BUT, I give him the benefit of the doubt that on the play on the 2, he purposely stepped out of bounds and grabbed the football, which is a very smart play on his part.

on September 23rd, 2013 at 09:08am

Well....most of us were right....the Pack has cut Jeremy Ross. He was signed to the Packers’ practice squad last October and made his NFL debut in December, barely hung on to a roster spot during training camp. He needed a big receiving game in the preseason finale to make the team. So...MM now list Franklin on the current team as next in line on the current roster. Franklin never returned kicks in College so I do not think he is the answer. With a roster spot open with Ross' release look for Tt and MM to comb the streets for a legit return man. This shows that the team knows when to make moves and not wait and make excuses like some 0-3 team in our division does. GO PACK GO !!

on September 23rd, 2013 at 09:41pm

My wife son and I were at the game yesterday and outside of the final score it was an entertaining game. That being said a lot went into this loss: - Ross cannot be allowed to return kicks anymore. Including the last 2 49ers games and yesterday he has put this team in holes with terrible decision making. - The play calling by McCarthy in the redone was terrible. I understand the running game actually is starting to take form but way too many run calls yesterday on 1st and 2nd down then you put Rodgers in a must pass situation on 3rd down in a short field against a very good defense. That is not a recipe for success. - Rodgers (are you listing Greg Jennings?) was off yesterday and he took ownership of it. The pick to Hall in the 4th was a killer. While Hall made a good play it was not a good throw. Also when was the last time Rodgers had so many balls batted down? I thought the defense actually played well. There were breakdowns but they got turnovers and were able to get off the field on 3rd down more than they have in the past.

on September 23rd, 2013 at 09:42am

I am surprised Rodgers is not getting more criticism for being a better come from behind QB. I think I read Rodgers is 5-17 on games decided by 4 points or less. He is obviously a greater QB, but I just cannot remember many of those "2 min on the clock, need a TD to win the game" drives. I hate to compare to Favre, but it was almost a guarantee he would pull those wins off; with Rodgers, I dont have as much confidence....yet.

on September 23rd, 2013 at 10:51am

First ......Great to see all the Cheeseheads at the Park Tavern....Thanks Davy for hosting and the HeadChesseShirts are great. Can't wait for the next game there on October 13th. As to the game.....while Rodgers was off he really had no time. Our line could not hold off those 6'6" and 6'7" defensive ends. that were batting his throws down. The OL is our weakpoint and they need to step up. But when you lose 2 number 1's in Bulaga to injury and Sherrod to injury and a disappearing act it is tough to rely on free agents and lower draft choices to play major roles. Maybe this is what you can only expect from a raw ability standpoint which tells me the management wants them to overchieve. Maybe this is where we need some luck.Packlifer....I disagree with you....I agree with MM's call to go for it on 4th down. Crosby is not automatic from 46 yards and a miss would have given Cincy great field position with plenty of clock time against a worn defense. But the call as most of us thought should have been a QB sneak. This shows me MM's no confidence in his line. At the beginning of the year I did not like a bye in Week 4....but now it looks like a godsend with all our injuries. It will be interesting to see a complete roster and see what we can do....but that is the NFL....we just seem to get more than our share of injuries. I agree Ross cannot be allowed to return kicks and the only reason he is still on the team is that MM likes his versatility as a back and receiver as a backup. We can probably find a guy on the street who can fill this role. Week 3's have been a jinx for the Pack. Let's get healthy and go forward. Moving Tramon Williams to the slot is a good move....he had a Woodson like sack. Shield's and House were decent on the corners as Green did not destroy us.....mistakes and turnovers did. GO PACK GO !!

on September 23rd, 2013 at 12:59pm

First, I'll just mention that I did not watch the game, and only listened to about 3 minutes of the 2nd quarter (I actually have projects in the yard I need to get done this time of year, and this is the time to do it, right Dear?...), but I can still take issue with a couple posts here. First of all, while driving down Available Free Agent Ave., I happened to pass by the Quality Kick Returner Store, and there was a sign on the door that said "closed for the season". See where I'm going with this? If there's someone out there worth is salt returning kicks, he's already on someone's roster, not sending out tweets saying "Sign me, please". And secondly, why is Rodgers taking so much guff for not being "clutch" in the 4th quarter? I think a vast majority of the media, and some selective fans, are playing fast and loose with statistics that don't tell the complete story. In the vast majority of games where Rodgers supposedly "chokes" the game away, take a closer look - in the vast majority of those games, he's brought the Packers back to gine them a 4th quarter lead, only to have the defense give the lead right back. That's the problem with a lot of statistics - often times it's just easier to use them as a shell game to try to convey one's point, and conveniently not telling the whole story. Finally, I don't have a problem with MM calling Franklin's number on the ill-fated 4th & inches. If everyone had done their job and imposed their will on the defense, it would have worked. But sometimes it doesn't. After all, that's why they play the game, and that's why we watch. But looking forward, let's hope a number of key guys get healed up over the next 2 weeks, and let's TCB with the Lions (that gives you an idea how old I am!).

on September 24th, 2013 at 03:34pm

I see the Pack is working out Bj Hill as a kick returner. He plays for the Green Bay Blizzard in the indoor league and is the leagues all time leader in kick returns. Bill, Voice of Reason don't laugh this guy had a good workout and will be quite a story if he makes it. go Pack Go !!

on September 25th, 2013 at 08:48pm

First, I have to agree with Jason: The play where Ross fielded the kick while standing with one foot out of bounds certainly looked intentional and is in fact a very heads-up , legal football play to make one of those dribbling sideline kickoffs be "out of bounds." So Ross has done one thing right so far this year. He's now gone and he should be. And, Bill- I'm not sure what is out there for kick returners but I doubt they could be worse than Ross has done going back to the SF playoff fumble. Pack did try out Joe McKnight earlier this year although I just googled him and see he has an arrest warant for failure to appear so I am guessing he isn't the one. As for the Cincy game: too many mistakes to beat a quality team on the road. Excited about Franklin options including the screen play as gbfisher suggested and late crossing patterns like Warrick Dunn would get as a shifty scat back in space. I am still very optimistic for this season. Not all of the pieces are clicking yet but goals for this season were 1)better running game which certainly looks to be the case. Starks, Franklin and Lacy have all looked good. 2) better defense which just forced turnovers on 4 consecutive series I believe. Datone quiet other than a blocked extra point and need more noise from Perry, but Davon looks to be back and add in Hayward and Burnett after bye and we could actually have a defense to bring into the playoffs. 3) fix kicking game and Crosby is 100% so far. GO PACK!

on September 26th, 2013 at 08:32am

Well, in a roundabout way, you guys sort of made my point. But then again, there could always be someone hanging around on the sidewalk out front. ;-) You never know...stranger things have happened.

on September 27th, 2013 at 09:15am

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