It’s becoming an expectation as opposed to an anomaly. When the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals meet, there’s going to be a Halloween-like quality fit for the Bengals’ garish black and orange uniforms.
The last three times the teams have played, the games have been full of turnovers, strong defense and every now and then a dose of the downright weird. This year, defense won the day, so it only made sense that defense would be responsible for the game-winning score.
First, a history lesson sets the scene in Cinci. The last time Green Bay traveled to Cincinnati was in 2005. That day, Brett Favre was picked off five times, yet the Packers still had a chance to win as the clock wound down. The Bengals led 21-14, the Packers were making a final drive down the field and the fans (well, one in particular) took things into their own hands.
With 27 seconds left and Green Bay near midfield, Favre called for the snap and a fan ran up behind him, taking the ball out of his hands and heading the other way. The Packers lost five-plus seconds off the clock and didn’t move the ball from there. Final: 21-14 Cincinnati.
The next time the two teams met was 2009, and on this day it was Aaron Rodgers trying to drive Green Bay to a potential game tying touchdown. Cincinnati led 31-21 late, but that’s when the Packers offense got going. They drove the length of the field for a field goal, recovered an onside kick, then started the game’s final drive with 44 ticks left.
No fans to worry about this time, just a pesky clock running down. After Rodgers completed a 25-yard pass to Donald Driver to the 10-yard line, the clock ran out on Green Bay’s game and their comeback.
That brings us to Sunday. Few times do you see a game with so many dramatic momentum shifts, but I did so in person on this day.
The Bengals drove 80 yards for the game’s first touchdown, and then the real mood for the day was set. On the ensuing kick off, Green Bay’s Jeremy Ross fumbled. Cincinnati recovered at the 2-yard line and a play later, it was 14-0.
That’s when the Packers defense took control. The next 27:28, the Bengals gained only 37 offensive yards, and in that span the Packers caused and recovered three fumbles, returned one for a touchdown and intercepted an Andy Dalton pass.
The Packers rode five straight scoring drives to 30 consecutive points, leading 30-14 with 5:30 left in the 3rd.
And…the roles reversed again.
Cincinnati found its offense, and Aaron Rodgers (off his game all day) lost his touch. The Bengals had two touchdown drives spanning 160 yards, both capped by Dalton passes, and Rodgers threw Favre-esque interceptions on back-to-back drives, both of them uncharacteristic mistakes for the usually accurate passer.
If you think that was all the excitement, we hadn’t even got there yet. The Packers still led 30-27 and were driving to close out the game. A 7:00 drive came down to 4th and 1 at the Bengals 30. Mike McCarthy decided to go for it instead of trotting out Mason Crosby to put Green Bay’s lead at 6, and all hell broke loose.
Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin tried to jump the pile, but the football was punched out and ten seconds later, Terence Newman was in the stands celebrating his 58-yard touchdown return. 34-30 Cincinnati.
Green Bay had plenty of time on the clock to attempt a comeback for the third straight time against the Bengals, but for the third straight time the Cincinnati defense stayed strong, closing out the unbelievable win.
So how strange was this game? How about a run down of some of the interesting numbers:
-According to STATS, this is the first time EVER that a team led by 14, trailed by 16 and then won the game.
-1999: That’s the last time a team scored 30 consecutive points and lost, which the Packers did.
-12 seconds: The span of time in the first quarter where Cincinnati turned a scoreless game into a 14-0 lead.
-37: The number of yards the Bengals offense gained in a stretch of 27:28 of the game. They had 292 yards in the other 32:32.
-40: The number of yards the Packers offense gained in the first 24:25 of the game. They had 389 yards in the final 25:35.
-5,642: That’s how many days it’s been since Green Bay last beat Cincinnati, though there’s only three games during that stretch. The Packers won 13-6 @ Cincinnati on September 20, 1998.