Cincinnati Bengals Must Overcome Penalty Woes to Beat Green Bay

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor ISeptember 19, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 10: Defensive back Taylor Mays #26 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts after being called for a penalty against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 10, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals will face their toughest challenge of the 2013 season so far.

The Green Bay Packers visit the Queen City a week after Aaron Rodgers threw for a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns against Washington

As noted by, "the Bengals have gone 16 consecutive games without allowing a 300-yard passer -- the longest such active streak in the NFL." It's an impressive stat, but given the ease Jay Cutler had in the season opener, and the fact that Rodgers topped 300 yards in just the first half last week, this is going to be a monumental test for Mike Zimmer's defense.

On the other side of the ball, Andy Dalton and the offense have, as of yet, shown little to suggest they are prepared to compete in a shootout. Dalton has a plethora of new weapons in Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, but errant throws and bad communication have handicapped Jay Gruden's offense.

And yet, there remains one demon that the Bengals still need to exorcise, and it's one that has and could derail them in every phase of the game.


The Bengals had eight penalties in Week 1 and added another nine in Week 2. Only five teams have averaged more in their first two games. It's cost the Bengals a grand total of 158 yards.

Oct 9, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) reacts on the sideline during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports
Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports

Jermaine Gresham is the main culprit, with three penalties worth 25 yards. He's followed by rookie Shawn Williams, who has produced two special teams penalties in two weeks, also worth 25 yards.

In Gresham's case, his two holding penalties against the Steelers put the skids on two Bengals drives. Big Ben was unable to make the Bengals pay for it, but Aaron Rodgers is in a much better position to do exactly that. Similarly with Shawn Williams, handing the Packers some extra yards on kickoffs could be disastrous.

Rey Maualuga was all too aware of the role he played in sealing the Bengals' 24-21 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 1 with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with under a minute to go:

"There was nothing I could say. It was over," Maualuga said. "But I told him [Marvin Lewis] I'm sorry for taking it over the top. He said it was a stupid mistake, but that you can't put this on your shoulders because it wasn't just you that lost the game. "

In defense of Rey, it's hard to place the blame on him when the entire team has struggled with discipline the last two weeks. 

Penalties continue to dent Cincinnati's growing poise on the field, and it's that lack of composure that could cost them big.

Sunday will be their first true test. In the season opener, they had Chicago on the ropes before penalties took their toll. They then made hard work of a Steelers matchup they should have controlled throughout. This weekend, they face a team with the potential to make a deep postseason run, and one that is already in January form. They simply can't afford to play flustered.

While it may be the players drawing flags, Marvin Lewis is the key in this one. He must keep his composure on the sideline if the Bengals are going to keep theirs on the field. If they don't, they'll struggle to topple Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay.