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Packers Plagued By Penalties and Pressure In Loss to Bengals

Ron Clements@Ron_ClementsCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 20: Quarterback Aaron Rogers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by defensive tackle Pat Sims #90 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Bengals defeated the Packers 31-24. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Where did the high-powered offense go?

Where is this vaunted Packers defense?

For the second straight week, the Green Bay offense was inconsistent. The defense, which bailed the Packers out against Chicago, couldn't stop the run in their 31-24 loss to Cincinnati Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Bears castoff Cedric Benson looked like a Pro Bowler while gashing the Packers defense for 141 yards on 29 carries. It was pretty clear the Packers still have some issues against the run, and they're still without first-round pick B.J. Raji, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.

The Bengals were also 9-of-14 on third down conversions as the Packers defense even allowed a third-and-34 conversion late in the second quarter.

Instead of punting from its own end zone, Cincinnati then had the ball near midfield. One play later, Chad Ochocinco burnt Jarrett Bush for a 44-yard gain. That led to a controversial touchdown for Carson Palmer on a quarterback sneak.

The official who initially signaled for the touchdown had his vision of the play obstructed by Ochocinco. Although replays appeared to show that, not only did the ball not break the plain, Palmer fumbled as he raised the ball up over the heap of bodies.

Referee Ed Hochuli called it a touchdown, the first of two crucial mistakes he made. The second came in the game's waning seconds.

With the Packers trailing 31-24 with 10 seconds remaining, Donald Driver caught his sixth pass over the middle at the Cincinnati 10. The Packers rushed to the line, and the ball was snapped with a second remaining. All this before a pair of Bengals were able to get back on their side of the line of scrimmage.

A flag was thrown, and the assumption was for offsides. Instead, Hochuli's crew ruled that tight end Jermichael Finley was not set and moved early. Hochuli's explanation was that time expired before the ball was snapped, which was false, but "even if the ball was snapped before time expired, there was a false start on the play, which requires a 10-second runoff. The game is over."

The loss overshadowed a stellar performance from Charles Woodson, who picked off Palmer twice, returning one for a touchdown to give Green Bay a 21-14 lead in the second. He also led the team with nine tackles, seemingly being the only defensive player to show up to play.

Backup defensive backs Aaron Rouse and Bush were both forced into more playing time because of injuries to starting safeties Atari Bigby and Nick Collins, who left early in the second quarter.

As poorly as the Packers played on defense, the offensive line was worse. Green Bay (1-1) managed just 89 rushing yards, 43 of which came on four Aaron Rodgers scrambles, and Rodgers was sacked six times. Five of those sacks came from Cincinnati defensive end Antwan Odom, who now has seven sacks in two games.

Odom abused the Packers line, especially after tackle Chad Clifton was carted off the field with an ankle injury. Whether he was lined up over Allen Barbre or Daryn Colledge, Odom was in Rodgers' face the entire game.

The receivers, who dropped six passes, weren't helping Rodgers at all, as he finished 21-of-39 for 261 yards and a three-yard touchdown toss to Driver in the first. Driver led the Packers with six catches for 99 yards, but Greg Jennings was held without a catch.

That score tied the game at 7-7 after the Bengals (1-1) scored on their opening possession. Palmer and Benson easily led them downfield, averaging 10 yards per play before a 5-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles.

Woodson's first interception set up a four-yard touchdown run from Ryan Grant, who struggled to find holes for the second straight week. He finished with 46 yards on 14 carries, a 3.3-yard average, and a crucial fumble that led to Cincinnati's go-ahead score in the third.

The Packers special teams also struggled, giving up punt returns of 60 and 32 from rookie Quan Cosby that both led to scores. Mason Crosby also badly missed a 55-yard field goal.

Both teams played sloppy football. Cincinnati was flagged 13 times for 100 yards, while the Packers had 11 penalties for 76 yards.

The Packers were a nine-point favorite, but the linemen were flat on both sides of the ball. With the St. Louis Rams and Steven Jackson next on the schedule, if the Packers don't figure out how to stop the run, they could fall victim to another disappointing upset.

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