The Bengals and Packers combined for one of the most bizarre finishes in NFL history yesterday. The Bengals took an early lead by scoring 14 quick points with the help of a special teams turnover. The fumble and resulting quick touchdown did nothing, however, to demoralize the Packers. Aaron Rodgers, in his typical cool-headed manner, marched his team up and down the field on the Bengals defense. In the process, the Cheeseheads scored 30 unanswered points to take a 30-14 lead late into the fourth quarter.
That’s when things really got crazy! Nearing the 4 minute mark, the Packers appeared to gain a first down on a rushing play in Bengals territory. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis challenged the spot claiming that the runner was down before reaching first down yardage. After review, the call was reversed and the ball spotted behind the first down marker, leaving the Packers at 4th and inches.
The routine call would have been for the Packers to kick a field goal and add to their point lead. However, in a decision that Green Bay fans will second guess for a long time, the Packers went for it on 4th down. Aaron Rodgers handed the ball off to rookie running back, Jonathon Franklin who went off tackle right. A stout Bengals D-line stuffed Franklin and in the course of play, he fumbled the ball which was picked up by Bengal safety Reggie Nelson. After taking just a few steps toward the end zone, Nelson was tackled, and he too fumbled the ball. This time it took a few fortuitous bounces and landed in the lap of Bengals cornerback Terrance Newman who ran it back 58 yards for a Bengals touchdown. The score gave the Bengals a 34-30 lead with just 3:47 left in the game.
Bengal fans cringed as they watched Aaron Rodgers engineer a last minute drive that was ultimately thwarted by a incomplete pass on 4th down. The Bengals athletic defensive end, Michael Johnson, went airborne to swat down what may have been a game winning touchdown pass. Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense then sealed the win by taking a knee on two subsequent offensive snaps.
For a franchise that knows the sting of defeat all to well its nice that the Bengals had the ball bounce their way for a change. Literally.
- Bengals barely outlast Packers in wild turnover-fest (cbssports.com)
- NFL: A painful loss for the Packers, who watch the Bengals win on a late fumble return (host.madison.com)
- Newman’s Return Rallies Bengals Over Packers 34-30 (abcnews.go.com)
- Newman’s return rallies Bengals over Packers 34-30 (timesleader.com)
What is the only thing scarier for a Bengals fan than playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football? Playing the Steelers on Monday Night Football after the Steelers were embarrassed the previous week. In week one of the new NFL season the Steelers were manhandled by the Tennessee Titans and lost 16-9 at home. Trust me, that’s not how the Steelers roll. Even though they have been decimated by injuries the Bengals should expect a gut-check performance from the Steelers. It’s just what they do.
The Bengals do have a few things in thier favor this week. First, the game is played in Cincinnati and a home crowd is always a boost. Don’t be surprised though to see plenty of yellow “terrible towels” waving in the night sky. Pittsburgh fans travel like no other fans. I remember games at Riverfront Stadium when more yellow was visible than orange. Secondly, and much more interestingly, James Harrison plays for the Bengals now. The former Steeler, and perhaps, the most frightening defender in the NFL is wearing orange and black instead of the old Steeler uniform. Add to that, he’s not real happy with his former employer. James Harrison knows how to impact a football game – just ask Colt McCoy.
Statistically, since 1990, any team opening the season at 0-2 has only a 12% shot at making the play-offs. With that said, Cincinnati desperately needs to win this game. They gave one away last week to the Chicago Bears and championship teams just don’t give games away that they lead in the fourth quarter. Monday night will go a long way in helping Bengal fans know if their team really does have the goods to deliver on a play-off season or if this is just another mirage in the desert of NFL wishful thinking.