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Game Review: Packers Fall Short In Sloppy Performance

There was plenty of blame to go around in all three phases for the Packers in their 31-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday. - More Packers-Bengals Game Center

There was plenty of blame to go around in all three phases for the Packers in their 31-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday.

On offense it was struggles in the running game, dropped passes and problems protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked six times. On defense, it was the inability to get off the field as the Bengals converted 9 of 14 third downs, and giving up 141 rushing yards to running back Cedric Benson. And on special teams, two long punt returns by Quan Cosby led to scores by the Bengals.

It all added up to the first loss of the season as the Packers fell to 1-1 in front of 70,678 at Lambeau Field.

"We have not played to the standard that we need to play at home, especially with this great home-field advantage that we have with our fans, our stadium and so forth," McCarthy said. "That's the most disappointing part for me. When you emphasize something for your football team and it doesn't get done, that falls solely on the responsibility of the head coach.

"We didn't play very well offensively, we didn't play very well defensively, and we didn't play very well on special teams. So we'll get back at it tomorrow, we'll get it cleaned up, and we'll move on. We're 1-1, but it is disappointing to have a home loss like that."

The struggles on offense started on the first possession of the game, with tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver Greg Jennings each dropping passes that would have gone for first downs. After a Jeremy Kapinos punt gave the Bengals the ball at their own 37, the Bengals quickly marched down the field on a 7-play, 63-yard drive capped off with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to wide receiver Laveranues Coles. The bulk of yardage was provided by running back Benson, who posted three 12-yard runs on the drive and six gains of 10-plus yards on the afternoon.

The Packers answered with their only touchdown drive of the afternoon on offense as Rodgers led the Packers on an 80-yard march to even the score at 7. On the Bengals' next play, cornerback Charles Woodson picked off Palmer's pass intended for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco at the Cincinnati 33 and returned it 22 yards to the 11. Running back Ryan Grant scored two plays later on a 4-yard run to give Green Bay the 14-7 lead.

The momentum swung back to Cincinnati courtesy of its special teams, as wide receiver Quan Cosby returned Kapinos' 53-yard punt down the right sideline all the way down to Green Bay's 6 to set up a 1-yard sneak by Palmer for a score.

Woodson provided another spark midway through the second, this time picking off Palmer's short pass intended for tight end Daniel Coats at the Cincinnati 37 and going in untouched for the score.

The Packers looked to have a great opportunity to build on the lead before halftime. After a sack by linebacker Clay Matthews and two penalties, the Bengals faced a 3rd-and-34 from their own 7 late in the first half.

Palmer's screen pass to Coats went for 23 yards out to the Cincinnati 30, and defensive end Cullen Jenkins knocked the ball loose at the end of the run. But Coles came in to recover the fumble 15 yards down the field for the first down, and Palmer found Ochocinco on a flea-flicker the next play for a 44-yard pickup. He then connected with wide receiver Chris Henry for a 5-yard score in the back of the end zone to even the game at 21 at the break.

"They obviously did a good job of blocking it up, but it's tough to give up that many yards on a 3rd-and-34," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "It's just one of those things where you've got to rally to the ball and get him down, and we didn't. That was a big play for their offense, both momentum-wise and field position."

Green Bay put together an impressive drive on their first possession of the second half as Rodgers connected with wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver for passes of 11 and 26 yards respectively. After Rodgers rushed for 15 yards to Cincinnati's 40, he completed a short pass to Grant over the middle, but linebacker Rey Maualuga forced a fumble with a big hit and Cincinnati re-gained possession.

"That was one of the biggest plays of the game," Grant said. "We shot ourselves in the foot too many times and it bit us in the (butt)."

The Bengals took advantage of the Packers' lone turnover with a 12-play drive capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Ochocinco, giving them a 28-21 lead, one they wouldn't relinquish.

The Packers' offense was unable to get any closer than the Cincinnati 31 on their next three possessions. Rodgers was sacked by defensive end Antwan Odom, who finished with five of Cincinnati's six sacks, on each of those drives, putting the offense in tough down-and-distance situations.

"It's extremely disappointing," said Daryn Colledge, who was lined up across from Odom in the second half when starting left tackle Chad Clifton left the game with an ankle injury. "We know what Aaron can do, but he can't do that when he is laying on his back. Every guy is going to say that they had some big problems today, but the big problem was me."

{sportsad300}After Cincinnati pushed their lead to 31-21 with just under two minutes remaining on a Shayne Graham field goal, Rodgers led the Packers on a 52-yard drive to set up a 45-yard field goal from Mason Crosby. Cornerback Tramon Williams was able to recover Crosby's onside kick on the ensuing play, setting up the Packers for one last opportunity to tie the game

With no timeouts left, Rodgers found Finley on a 22-yard pass down the right sideline to Cincinnati's 35. After spiking the ball to stop the clock at 16 seconds remaining, Rodgers connected with Driver on a 25-yard pass over the middle down to the Bengals' 10. Rodgers rushed to the line to get off one final play, but the Packers were flagged for a false start with one second remaining, ending the game. McCarthy said after the game that the officials told him wide receiver Greg Jennings was not lined up when the ball was snapped.

"I think adversity is always good for a team," Rodgers said. "We're going to have to respond properly to this. We've got to go to St. Louis next week and get a win. We need to have a good week of practice. Offensively our two weeks of practice have been average. We haven't practiced the way we are capable of practicing.

"I think young guys and old guys alike need to focus on a little more in practice and practice like a professional. I'm including myself in that sentence, but we're two weeks into the season now and we're 1-1. It's time to grow up and be a pro and practice and play like it."

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