Monday, September 23, 2013

The 53 - Packers lose to Bengals on the road

The Green Bay Packers won the toss and deferred to the second half, which means the Packers kicked off to the Cincinati Bengals to start the game.  The Bengals had an impressive opening drive that resulted in a touchdown.  On the ensuing kickoff, Packers wide receiver Jeremy Ross fumbled the kickoff and the Bengals recovered.  The Bengals capitalized on the turnover to go up 14-0 just six minutes into the game.  The Packers followed that up with 30 unanswered points to go up 30-14.  The Bengals struck back with 20 consecutive points to make the score 34-30 (would have been 21 but rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones blocked an extra point) with just over three minutes remaining in the game.  The Packers failed to score on the ensuing drive so they lost 34-30 to the Bengals to head into their bye week with a record of 1-2.

With the quick rundown of the game out of the way, here are my thoughts along with updated rankings to The 53 following the Packers/Bengals game:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LW 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, LW 3)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, LW 4)
5. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 9)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LW 6)
7. Jordy Nelson (WR, LW 5)
8. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11)
9. James Jones (WR, LW 7)
10. T.J. Lang (G, LW 8)
11. Josh Sitton (G, LW 10)
12. Tramon Williams (CB, LW 14)
13. David Bakhtiari (T, LW 12)
14. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LW 13)
15. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 27)
16. Nick Perry (OLB, LW 15)
17. Casey Hayward (CB, LW 16)
18. Datone Jones (DL, LW 17)
19. Tim Masthay (P, LW 18)
20. Eddie Lacy (RB, LW 19)
21. Ryan Pickett (DL, LW 20)
22. Don Barclay (T, LW 21)
23. Micah Hyde (CB, LW 22)
24. Johnny Jolly (DL, LW 23)
25. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LW 24)
26. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 29)
27. Mike Daniels (DL, LW 25)
28. James Starks (RB, LW 26)
29. C.J. Wilson (DL, LW 28)
30. Jerron McMillian (S, LW 30)
31. Mason Crosby (K, LW 31)
32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LW 32)
33. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LW 45)
34. Brett Goode (LS, LW 33)
35. Jarrett Bush (CB, LW 34)
36. Ryan Taylor (TE, LW 35)
37. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LW 36)
38. Davon House (CB, LW 37)
39. Robert Francois (MLB, LW 38)
40. Chris Banjo (S, LW 39)
41. Andrew Quarless (TE, LW 41)
42. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW 40)
43. John Kuhn (FB, LW 42)
44. Marshall Newhouse (T, LW 43)
45. Greg Van Roten (G, LW 44)
46. Seneca Wallace (QB, LW 46)
47. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LW 47)
48. Andy Mulamba (LB, LW 48)
49. Sam Barrington (LB, LW 49)
50. Brandon Bostick (TE, LW 50)
51. Nate Palmer (LB, LW 51)
52. Josh Boyd (DL, LW 53)
53. Lane Taylor (G, LW 52)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2): After two fairly quiet weeks to open the 2013 season, Matthews put together a huge game with two forced fumbles (an assist from rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones on one of them).  The first forced fumble lead to a recovery and return for a touchdown by safety M.D. Jennings.  Matthews was on the sidelines at the start of the second half with the 10,001 hamstring injury for the Packers in 2013.  The absence of Matthews was felt in the second half as the Packers struggled to contain the Bengals offense.

5. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 9): I am sure the main game-plan for the Packers was to work Finley over the middle but since he was lost on the first offensive series to a concussion, head coach Mike McCarthy had to modify his game-plan.  We know in-game adjustments are not McCarthy's forte.  Much like safety Morgan Burnett, Finley's stock rose when he was out due to injury.  After dropping a couple balls, backup tight end Andrew Quarless seemed to be benched in favor of Ryan Taylor.  The drop-off from starter (Finley) to backup (Quarless and Taylor) is very pronounced at tight end.  Sure the backups had a couple catches but they do not possess Finley's rare combination of size and speed.  Add in that the Bengals have such slow linebackers and if Finley were healthy, I honestly think he would have had a career day and the Packers would have won by two touchdowns.  That may sound like sour grapes but it just goes to show you how valuable Finley is to this offense despite the Packers having arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and three stud wide receivers.

8. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11): Until this season cornerback Tramon Williams covered the opposing team's best wide receiver.  Starting this season Shields handles that assignment, which shows you how much the Packer value Shields.   Despite giving up a touchdown to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green late in the 3rd quarter, today's performance by Sheilds against Green (blanket coverage along with an interception) shows that he is a special player.  Despite all the talent the Packers have at cornerback, since Shields is in a contract year, they need to workout a long-term deal with Shields before the end of this season.

15. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 27): I've been very critical of Jones. In fact, before the seasons, I wrote that he has the 4th worst contract on The 53.  My issue with paying middle linebackers is that besides former Packer Desmond Bishop, the Packers have been unable to create big plays from the middle linebacker position.  Jones did his best Bishop impression against the Bengals registering 11 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

26. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 29): With safety Morgan Burnett missing his third consecutive game, the Packers are still trying to get settled at safety.  The emergence of Chris Banjo has given the Packers three safties competing one position next to Burnett once he is healthy.  A fumble return for TD, a sack, and four tackles allowed Jennings to stake his claim to line-up next to Burnett at safety following the bye.

33. Johnathan Franklin (RB, LW 45): The running back position continues to be the definition of "next guy up".  Last week the Packers lost rookie running back Eddie Lacy to a concussion.  Running back James Starks ran very well in place of Lacy last week but got hurt at the end of the first half against the Bengals, which left Franklin as the only healthy and active running back or fullback.  After a lackluster preseason, Franklin performed well until he fumbled on a 4th and 1 that was returned for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 34-30 lead.  That was ultimately the winning scoreline.  Franklin ran for 103 yards (a touchdown but he broke off a 51 yard run) and caught three passes for 23 yards.  Franklin running for over 100-yards against the Bengals gave the Packers consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher for the first time since December of 2007.

42. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW 40): After fumbling on his first touch of the game on a kickoff return, McCarthy stuck with Ross.  Fumbles in general, let alone on special teams, are inexcusable so luckily Ross atoned for his fumble by properly fielding a kickoff out of bounds to give the Packers the ball on their own 40-yard line instead of essentially the goal line.

There were five guys inactive against the Bengals that if healthy would have been active: Morgan Burnett (S), Jarrett Bush (CB), Casey Hayward (CB), John Kuhn (FB), and Eddie Lacy (RB) while Josh Boyd (DL) and Lane Taylor (G) continue to be healthy scratches.  The Packers suffered three more important injuries against the Bengals: Finley (concussion), Starks (knee), and Matthews (hamstring).

Before today I was super salty about the Packers having a bye week so early in the season season for one selfish reason and one practical reason.  Selfishly, Cheesehead Chick and I are going on a two week vacation to South America in early October.  Somehow our bye week fell even before that trip so I am not going to see the Packers until I go to the game on October 20th against the Browns in Green Bay.  That means after the bye week next week, I am going to miss two Packers games (at home against the Detroit Lions and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens).

The practical reason I was salty about the Packers having a bye so early was that I did not think it would help them rehab injuries since it fell so early in the season but with a number of players hobbled, the bye week came just in time.

Check back if the Packers make any roster moves over the next few weeks before they host the Lions at home on October 6th.  If not, check for a bunch of other Cheesehead sports related coverage.

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