Packers vs. Bengals: Takeaways from Bengals' 34-30 Win over Green Bay
At one point, Cincinnati held a 14-point lead before falling behind by 16 and eventually overcoming Aaron Rodgers and Co. for a four-point victory.
It marked the second victory in a row for Cincinnati in less than a week after the team managed to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday Night Football.
The victory over Green Bay may forecast better things in the future for Cincinnati. In the following slideshow we will identify several major takeaways from the victory and what they mean for the rest of the season.
Depleted Defensive Line Is Just Fine
Last week the Cincinnati Bengals lost veteran defensive end Robert Geathers for the season, greatly impacting the highly vaunted depth the Bengals typically field.
It came as a surprise on Sunday against Green Bay when Cincinnati only had three defensive ends active for the game, keeping rookie Margus Hunt from dressing in favor of more defensive backs to counter Aaron Rodgers.
The line responded just fine. Michael Johnson notched 1.5 sacks, Carlos Dunlap got one, and No. 3 defensive end Wallace Gilberry recorded half a sack. Dunlap and Co. also batted down three passes in the final two minutes of the game, including Rodgers’ last two attempts to end the game.
Depth may have been scarce, but the defensive line responded well against an offense lacking in the running department.
Defense Is Far from Perfect
As great as the Cincinnati defense was against Aaron Rodgers, the unit struggled against the run. Perhaps that’s a result of a game plan tailored to stopping the pass, but it was still a discouraging performance.
The problem? Rookie running back Eddie Lacy missed the game because of a concussion. Backup James Starks started the game and played well with 14 carries for 55 yards before leaving with a knee injury.
Then entered Jonathan Franklin, a rookie who started the season third on the depth chart in Green Bay. Franklin took 13 handoffs and turned his big opportunity into 103 yards and a score.
Again—Cincinnati was more concerned with stopping the pass, but it was not a typical performance from a unit that had only allowed two 100-yard rushers in 2012 and none so far this year.
Coaching Strategy Needs Improvement
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football last week, the game plan was confusing for the Cincinnati offense in the first half—to say the least. Coordinator Jay Gruden elected to throw the ball over 30 times while not running often enough to keep the defense honest.
Another issue was the coaching staff’s insistence on using veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis more than explosive rookie Giovani Bernard, who gave the Bengals an obvious boost whenever he was in the game.
This week the coaching staff elected to give Green-Ellis and Bernard an even split, even when the team was down 16 points and needed a major play.
As illustrated in the next point, the strategy on the offensive side of things needs to continue to improve. An even split this week was a small improvement, but Cincinnati won’t be able to out-shoot every team it encounters with the current approach.
Giovani Bernard Is the Key
If fans were not believers entering Cincinnati’s showdown with Green Bay, they better be now.
Rookie running back Giovani Bernard is the real deal and is the key to an offense perfectly suited to his skill set. All that remains is a coaching staff willing to give him the full load.
Against Green Bay, Bernard received 10 carries and rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s second-leading receiver with four receptions for 49 yards.
This is the second week in a row Bernard has been the star of the offense after he notched two touchdowns against Pittsburgh. His continued contributions on the ground and through the air in just three games as a rookie spell major things for the future.
Bernard has experienced no hiccups as a rookie and is vital in every sense of the word. Tune in any Sunday, and the difference in the Cincinnati offense with and without Bernard will be painfully obvious.
Plenty of Room for Improvement
As great as the Bengals looked for some stretches of the contest against Green Bay (including the most important stretch of all), there were portions of the contest where the team looked equally as bad.
Once again Cincinnati struggled with taking care of the football, turning the ball over four times. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw one interception and fumbled while running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and tight end Jermaine Gresham also lost the football once.
Turnovers are what have ultimately prevented the Bengals from having an undefeated mark at this point after horrific ball security in Week 1 against Chicago cost the team the game.
There’s a lot to like about the feat Cincinnati accomplished against Green Bay, but there’s plenty of work to do if the team is going to remain consistent in its winning ways. Not every team will match Cincinnati in the turnover category and give the Bengals a chance to win.
Bengals Creating Plenty of History and Interesting Stats
Cincinnati's major win over Green Bay not only did wonders for the team's fortunes this season, but it also created plenty of interesting stats to peruse.
Here are some interesting figures courtesy of Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Coley Harvey of ESPN:
Unofficially, first time Bengals have been down 16 or more and rallied to win since the 2004 Week 13 rally at Baltimore— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) September 22, 2013
Rodgers' 64.5 passer rating his lowest in a complete game since Week 8 of 2010 against the Jets (59.7)— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) September 22, 2013
Per Elias, #Bengals are 2nd team to go up 14, give up 30 and still win. GB, on 10/7/51, was first. Pack led Pitt 28-0, allowed 33, won 35-33— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) September 22, 2013
The Bengals are riding high as the pieces come together. The numbers don't lie.
Marvin Lewis Continues to Flex His Red-Flag Muscles
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has received his fair share of criticism during his time with the team, especially in the on-field management category.
Lewis’ track record with challenges has been a focal point of animosity in the past, but the last two weeks have seen Lewis excel in the area.
Last week Lewis won a quality challenge against Pittsburgh, but against Green Bay he really shined by challenging the spot of a ball with little time left in the fourth quarter. The successful challenge prevented Green Bay from getting a first down via a favorable spot.
Green Bay elected to go for it on fourth down rather than kick a field goal and take a six-point lead. Rookie back Johnathan Franklin fumbled the ball, and Cincinnati cornerback Terence Newman ended up returning it for a touchdown after a fumble of the fumble by safety Reggie Nelson (Get all that?).
It’s hard to hate how Lewis managed the game in the challenge category Sunday.
Young Bengals Are Growing Up Fast
Last week against Pittsburgh represented a small stepping stone for Cincinnati as the team took down its arch rival on prime time, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
Cincinnati teams of past may have faltered after falling behind with a 16-point deficit. Then again, teams in recent years would have given up a 14-point lead as well, but the resiliency and maturity required to bounce back after the mistake is encouraging.
After winning just three games against teams with a winning record the past two seasons, the Bengals’ win over Pittsburgh followed by a comeback victory over Green Bay on a short week shows the team is gelling at a fast pace.
Things are looking up in a big way for the Bengals after strong showings in consecutive weeks. Billed by many as the year Cincinnati finally gets over the hump, it may turn out to be just that.
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