Game Review: Signs Of Promise In Preseason Opener

Aaron Rodgers made a solid starting debut , and the Packers’ No. 1 defense showed the tremendous potential it has. So even though the 69,675 in attendance witnessed a 20-17 loss to Cincinnati, there were plenty of encouraging signs from the first units on both sides of the ball. - More Packers-Bengals Game Center


No one was expecting the start of the Aaron Rodgers era to go off without a hitch, and it didn't.

But Rodgers made a solid starting debut in the 2008 preseason opener on Monday night, and the Packers' No. 1 defense showed the tremendous potential it has. So even though the 69,675 in attendance at Lambeau Field witnessed a 20-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, there were plenty of encouraging signs from the first units on both sides of the ball.

"I think we're off to a solid start," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm not jumping up and down. We didn't win the game number one. Number two, we came up on the short side of the turnover ratio. That's not what we're looking for as a football team.

"But there's a lot of productivity in all three phases and that's what we'll build off of."

Rodgers led the offense to two scores in his four series, putting the Packers up 10-0 in the first quarter.

After two early sacks - one when a blitz pick-up was missed and another when Rodgers said he held the ball too long - Rodgers had the offense moving. But his second drive ended with an interception when his pass to Chris Francies on a slant deflected off Francies and defender Marvin White and into the hands of Dexter Carter, killing a potential scoring drive.

But Rodgers put points on the board on his final two drives. He moved the offense 44 yards for a field goal, mostly thanks to a nicely placed deep fade to Ruvell Martin for 30 yards. One play before that, he had James Jones wide open deep down the left side, only to overthrow him by the slimmest of margins.

"James told me he should have caught it, and I told him I should have just taken a little bit off it," Rodgers said. "That's a ball you'd love to have back and just take a little bit off it, not realizing he's going to be that wide open."

Rodgers and Jones made up for it, though, connecting for a 30-yard touchdown on the No. 1 offense's final series. The drive was 75 yards in all, including a 22-yard run by Brandon Jackson (six carries, 44 yards).

On the scoring play, Jones caught the ball on a slant, was sandwiched between two Cincinnati defenders and lost his helmet in the collision, but managed to keep his feet and jog into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.

"He rang me pretty good," Jones said. "I felt like I had a little stinger going down my shoulder, but other than that, it was all right. It wasn't that hard of a hit. It probably looked hard, but it wasn't that hard. I was able to regroup."

Overall, Rodgers finished 9-of-15 for 117 yards with the one TD and one interception for a 79.0 rating. He wasn't flawless or flashy, but he gave himself and the offense a foundation to add to as the preseason continues.

"I think we moved the ball pretty well," Rodgers said. "We just need to execute a little better in certain situations. We had a chance to make some plays. We made some, but left a couple out there as well.

"I felt like it was important for me to make some good decisions out there, manage the game and play well, and I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Maybe one or two decisions I'd like to have back, but I thought it was a good start to the preseason."

Meanwhile the first-team defense was impenetrable early, not allowing the Bengals a first down on their first three drives. Cincinnati gained just 13 yards on a trio of three-and-outs, with Tramon Williams and A.J. Hawk breaking up back-to-back passes on the third series.

"It was a good starting point," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "It's not a bad start. It's a foundation and it's training. We'll have some good opportunities to grow and train ourselves, and we'll continue to do so and get ourselves ready for when it's for real."

Cincinnati got things going after that. Ben Utecht's 14-yard TD catch capped an 80-yard drive that featured 52 rushing yards from Chris Perry and Kenny Watson. After Brian Brohm threw an interception on his first pass, the Bengals capitalized with a 25-yard TD drive, with Perry going the final 6 yards for the score.

{sportsad300}Two field goals by Shayne Graham late in the first half and early in the fourth quarter made it 20-10. The Green Bay offense struggled for a bit, as Brohm had four more series after his interception but the Packers penetrated no farther than the Cincinnati 44-yard line. Brohm finished 8-of-17 for 70 yards.

No. 3 quarterback Matt Flynn took over and the Packers punted three straight times before putting together a nice scoring drive.

Running a no-huddle with less than six minutes left, Flynn directed a 62-yard drive that featured a clutch fourth-down pass to Taj Smith for 11 yards to keep the drive alive. Another connection to Smith for 12 yards picked up another first down and set up a screen pass to Kregg Lumpkin, who scored from 11 yards out, making it 20-17 with 3:02 left.

Green Bay got the ball back and had one last chance in the final two minutes, but a dump-off pass to Lumpkin (seven carries, 36 yards) resulted in a fumble by the reserve running back. The Bengals' Corey Lynch recovered with 48 seconds left, ending the comeback bid.

"We're disappointed it didn't come out the way we wanted to, but it was a good experience," said Flynn, who finished 12-of-21 for 97 yards and the TD (84.8 rating). "It was good to get out there and run the two-minute huddle a little bit. I felt like we did a good job, the offensive line and receivers responded well, and we got in the right play. We had a chance to win it but came up a little short."

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