Green Bay Packers: 2013 Week 3 GNB at CIN

The right time for a bye after all

September, 22, 2013
CINCINNATI -- When the NFL schedule was released in April, the Green Bay Packers were surprised to see that their bye came in Week 4 -- the earliest possible date.

It meant a long, 13-game run without much of a break to finish the season.

That bye week doesn’t look so bad now.

The Packers might need it in order to get some of their injured players back on the field before their next game on Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions.

The Packers lost three starters -- tight end Jermichael Finley (concussion), running back James Starks (knee) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) -- in Sunday’s 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Combine that with the fact that four other starters and/or key players -- safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring), cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring), running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) and fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) -- all were inactive against the Bengals, and it’s easy to see why the Packers weren’t complaining about their early bye now.

Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers got knocked around on Sunday, taking a shot to the back of his leg on a low hit (that wasn’t penalized) by Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson in the third quarter.

“We’ve got a week off; we’ve got to get healthy,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to get some guys back, got to get Morgan back, got to get John back if we can. Jermichael, hopefully he’ll be back, James, Eddie. We’ve got some injuries. We’ve got to get some guys back and see what we can do at full strength.”

For Matthews, who missed the entire second half after forcing two fumbles in the first half, it’s the same problem that has hampered him in the past. He missed four games last season and one in 2010 because of a hamstring injury.

“I felt like I could go back out there but we had to be smart with this, especially going into a bye week,” Matthews said. “I don’t see myself missing any time. We’ve got Detroit coming back, and I’ll be out there.”

Starks said he did not know the severity of his injury, while Finley was not available to reporters, as is the league rule when a player sustains a concussion.

Players will be off Tuesday through Sunday this week. That’s the same schedule coach Mike McCarthy used last season, when the Packers had their bye after nine games.

“I’ve never had a bye week after the third week, ever,” McCarthy said. “I can’t even recall a bye week close to this early. I think we’d all like to play this week. The schedule is set, you can’t change it. We have a process we’ll stick to. We’re 1-2, that’s where we are.”

Packers' defense does its part

September, 22, 2013
CINCINNATI – Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb called it “hands down one of the best games I’ve seen since I’ve been here for our defense.”

[+] EnlargeBrad Jones
John Grieshop/Getty ImagesBrad Jones' fumble recovery was one of four straight Packers takeaways in the first half.
But it wasn’t enough to save the Packers in Sunday’s 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

In one of the more remarkable defensive stretches by the Packers, they forced turnovers on four straight first-half possessions with an interception and three fumbles.

“It’s a shame that we couldn’t make a few more plays in the second half,” Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji said.

Or it’s a shame that the Packers couldn’t convert the takeaways into more points (other than the one safety M.D. Jennings returned for a touchdown, the Packers got only two field goals off the other three takeaways). Or that the Packers were in a 14-0 hole, thanks in part to a giveaway of their own when Jeremy Ross fumbled a kickoff that the Bengals recovered at the Packers’ 2-yard line.

Cornerback Sam Shields got the Packers’ defense started late in the first quarter when he picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who was trying to hit A.J. Green. The Packers then forced fumbles on Cincinnati’s next three possessions. Linebacker Brad Jones ripped the ball away from away from tight end Jermaine Gresham, and A.J. Hawk recovered it. Then Clay Matthews forced a BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumble that Jennings returned 24 yards for a touchdown. Then Matthews got another one with a strip-sack of Dalton that Jones recovered.

Of the Bengals’ 34 points, a case could be made that the Packers’ defense wasn’t responsible for 14 of them – the touchdown after Ross’ fumble and the game-winning 58-yard fumble recovery return by cornerback Terence Newman.

“We’re doing some great things out there, even today, but ultimately, it’s about sustaining that success,” Matthews said. “We can’t just show flashes and then take the foot off the gas. We’ve got to keep it going. It is encouraging. We’re moving in the right direction, but our record doesn’t indicate that. We’ve just got to keep progressing.”

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 34, Packers 30

September, 22, 2013

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

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.