Bengals vs Packers: Breaking Down Cincinnati's 27-13 Loss to Green Bay
Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
The starters on both offense and defense seemed to take a step back from the past two weeks, with quarterback Andy Dalton feeling the Packers' defensive pressure and the Bengals defense being harassed in the air and on the ground by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay was uncharacteristically strong in the run game—184 of their 335 total yards came on the ground—and it notched 12 rushing first downs. In contrast, the Bengals offense produced just nine total first downs on the night, only two of them via the rush.
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Rodgers was the Packers' top rusher yet again, running with the ball six times for 52 yards and two touchdowns. When the Bengals managed to flush him out of the pocket, they had no plan to stop him when he took off with the ball. He also completed 12 of his 22 passes for 154 yards and an interception.
Dalton's outing was far less successful, though he also was able to take off and run the ball. He, too, was the Bengals' leading rusher, with three carries for 36 yards. Despite staying in the game into the third quarter, throwing 17 passes, he completed a mere five of them, good for just 40 yards.
Few things about the Bengals' performance on Thursday can be considered positive. They converted only one of 12 third downs; they ran just 54 plays (to Green Bay's 80) and possessed the ball for 23:39, compared to 36:21 for Green Bay; Brian Leonard was the only running back who looked like he belonged on the field.
The lone bright spot for the Bengals in this game was their linebackers. Michael Johnson continued to make the case for why he's one of the best-kept defensive secrets in the league, with four tackles and a pass defended; Dontay Moch continued to impress with two tackles (one for a loss), a sack and a quarterback hit; Vincent Rey had 11 tackles; and Roddrick Muckelroy had six tackles, a sack and a QB hit.
The question now is whether or not Thursday's disappointment was an unfortunate anomaly or a sign of things to come in the regular season. The Packers were Cincinnati's first real test of the preseason, and the Bengals didn't stand strong against them.
For the Bengals to make the leap they've seemed to be on the brink of making throughout this offseason, they must be able to beat the league's better teams.
It was an area in which they foundered last season. The nine games they won in 2011 were all against teams that failed to make the postseason, and the seven they lost were against teams that made it to the playoffs.
Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Winning the big games will be even more important for Cincinnati this season if it wants back-to-back postseason appearances. Beyond the Bengals' usual four games against AFC North powerhouses in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, they must also face the NFC East, populated by such teams as the Philadelphia Eagles and Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
That's a far cry from the NFC West and AFC South teams they played last season, against whom they went a combined 6-2.
Thursday night proved that the Bengals still have work to do to tighten up their games on both sides of the ball if they want to hang with the NFL's big boys. It's a lot to ask in the limited amount of time left before their regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, but it's not impossible.
Now, at least, the Bengals have a better idea of what they need to do over the coming days; whether or not they succeed is as of yet unknown. But the fact is that what happened against the Packers cannot be a recurring event this season if they are to carry over 2011's momentum into 2012.
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