- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: This has to be a deflating loss for the Packers, who blew a 16-point second-half lead. They appeared to be in control when Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones for a 7-yard touchdown pass with five and a half minutes left in the third quarter for a 30-14 lead. The Packers probably could have wrapped the game up had they converted a fourth-and-1 from the Bengals’ 30 with four minutes left in the game. But rookie running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled while trying to jump over the pile, and Bengals cornerback Terence Newman picked up the loose ball and returned it 58 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The loss leaves the Packers 1-2 and reeling as they head into their bye week.
Stock watch: Before his fumble, it looked like Franklin was going to save the Packers’ day. He had not played a snap on offense before Sunday but was called to duty in the second half after James Starks dropped out because of a knee injury. Starks and Franklin were the Packers’ only available running backs because Eddie Lacy (concussion) and John Kuhn (hamstring) were inactive. Franklin capped his first series with a 2-yard touchdown run, and then ripped off a 51-yard run to set up a touchdown later in third quarter. He finished with 13 carries and 103 yards and also had three catches for 23 yards.
Injuries galore: In addition to losing Starks and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), the Packers also played most of the game without tight end Jermichael Finley. He was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter after taking a blow to the head from Bengals safety George Iloka, who appeared to lead with his shoulder. There was no penalty called on the play, but a case could have been made that Finley was a defenseless receiver.
Trouble brewing? Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy appeared to have a disagreement on the sideline after a second-quarter series that saw the Packers settle for a 19-yard field goal with 6:36 left before halftime. Rodgers had gestured toward the sideline during that series, and then had a heated exchange with his coach after he came off the field. Shortly after that, defensive tackle B.J. Raji was seen calming Rodgers down. Rodgers didn’t have his best game, throwing two interceptions for the first time in a regular-season game since Week 7 of the 2010 season.
What’s next: The Packers have their bye -- the earliest possible bye for NFL teams -- next week before they return to action on Oct. 6 against Detroit at Lambeau Field.