Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shows his frustration from the sidelines as the clock expires in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
CINCINNATI — Of all the reasons for the Green Bay Packers’ stunning collapse and disheartening 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the most shocking was the failure of Aaron Rodgers and the offense to deliver when it mattered most.
Rodgers proved to be human after all, and a rare subpar performance by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL led to the Packers’ demise.
“It’s disappointing,” said a dejected Rodgers after the game. “We feel like we gave the game away offensively. We had a lot of turnovers. I played poorly.”
Despite their inability to punch the ball into the end zone in the first half, the Packers assumed control of the game with a 30-14 lead midway through the third quarter. That’s when the Packers’ high-powered offense inexplicably blew a gasket.
The Packers had four possessions in the final 19 minutes and came up bone dry, which enabled the Bengals to rally for the victory.
Rodgers hadn’t thrown two interceptions in a regular-season game in nearly three years, yet during crunch time, he collected two picks on consecutive possessions.
Intended receiver James Jones claimed responsibility for the first one when he didn’t finish his route and cornerback Terence Newman stepped in to make a play on the ball late in the third quarter.
The second interception by cornerback Leon Hall early in the fourth quarter came on a pass intended for Randall Cobb. It was especially costly because the Packers had marched to the Bengals’ 27 and were looking to build on a 30-21 lead.
“I’d like to think we go through the season and he doesn’t throw very many interceptions,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “But if you’re going to play a wide open offense, sometimes that’s going to happen.”
Statistically, Bengals third-year quarterback Andy Dalton stood head-and-shoulders above Rodgers – he posted a much better passer rating (105.5 to 64.5) and completion percentage (71.4% to 60.5%).
Rodgers has been consistently excellent throughout his career, so it’s surprising when he turns in a pedestrian performance. His passer rating against the Bengals was the lowest in the regular season since December 2010 when he suffered a concussion against Detroit and left early.
“We all know what kind of player he is,” said guard Josh Sitton. “There are going to be days when he’s not going to go and play at an all-star level. That’s part of the game. It’s going to happen. That’s why we have 10 other people on the field to pick him up.”
No one picked up Rodgers on the Packers’ second-to-last drive, which ended on a fourth-down fumble by rookie Johnathan Franklin and resulted in a Bengals’ touchdown.
Although the Packers lost the lead, they had one final chance for redemption with 3:47 remaining. But neither Rodgers nor his offensive teammates were up to the task.
They drove to the Bengals’ 20 but couldn’t finish. Their hopes ended on a fourth-and-5 Rodgers pass that was swatted away at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Michael Johnson.
It’s not often that a Packers loss can be directly tied to Rodgers’ ineffective play. But this was one of those unusual games, and the hurt was evident on his face.
“I didn’t play very well,” said Rodgers. “I am competitive and I expect to play well every week and this week it didn’t happen and that’s frustrating.”
If Rodgers had played just a little bit better, made one more throw here or one less mistake there, the Packers could have walked away with a hard-fought victory.
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