The Bengals scored 14 points in the first nine-plus minutes of the game and they scored 20 over the final 18-plus minutes, which turned out to be enough to make up for allowing the Packers to score 30 points in between the two binges.
Cincinnati came back for a 34-30 win on a wild day at Paul Brown Stadium that could have lasting ramifications for the Packers. The deciding score came on a fumble by rookie running back Johnathan Franklin as the Packers were trying to run clock on their way to a score that would ice the game. The ball was jarred loose by defensive end Michael Johnson and recovered briefly by safety Reggie Nelson and permanently by cornerback Terence Newman on his way to a touchdown. The Packers turned the ball over on downs on the next drive, ending a miserable day for Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers was intercepted twice in a game for the first time since 2010 and the second pick led to the touchdown that brought the Bengals within one score in the fourth quarter. Rodgers was 26-of-43 for 244 yards and a touchdown while getting sacked four times and harassed often by the Bengals defense. He didn’t have Jermichael Finley available after a concussion and Franklin was playing because James Starks became the latest backfield casualty in Green Bay this season.
For much of the second half, that was a good thing. Franklin ran for 103 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes for 23 yards, numbers that look awfully good when added to what Starks did in the first half but Franklin alone isn’t going to be able to carry the backfield load all by himself. Finley and Starks were joined on the sideline by linebacker Clay Matthews, who left with a hamstring injury in the second half.
His departure coincided with the Bengals’ return to life offensively. The Bengals had done nothing for almost two full quarters after two early scores, but found themselves on a pair of drives that ended with Andy Dalton touchdown passes. The Packers helped out with a personal foul on each drive, but Dalton was able to rebound from early problems to get his team back in position to steal the lead.
Thanks to the defense, they did and then made it stand up by knocking down Rodgers’ final two passes of the game at the line of scrimmage. It was a fitting end to a day that started and ended with one of the league’s best quarterbacks look as bad as he’s looked in years.