Prior to this season, the Cincinnati Bengals haven't had a winning season in 14 years. The Green Bay Packers haven't had a losing season in the last 13 years. Over that period, these respective teams have suffered/enjoyed the worst and the best win-loss records in the NFL. That trend seems to have taken a major u-turn in 2005 as the Bengals improved their record to 6 - 2 this year by defeating the Packers last Sunday by a score of 21 - 14. The loss leaves the Packers with a 1 - 6 record, and once again there is little joy in Titletown.
With all the key-playmaker injuries, few expected the Packers to go on the road and make this a close game. Bookmakers favored the Bengals by 9 points and they came out roaring on their opening possession with a long drive and a touchdown. The Packers responded with a few new wrinkles to go with their new personnel. The offense tried a couple no huddle plays, which I don't recall during the Mike Sherman era. The defense showed more blitzes than usual. The coaching staff had a plan but it was the Bengals that took a 14 - 7 halftime lead.
Samkon Gado and Taco Wallace made their Packer debuts in the second half. No, I didn't misspell those names. Gado is the new running back and Wallace is now the # 4 receiver. Hey"¦General Manager Ted Thompson had to sign some bodies to fill the roster, which has become decimated with injuries. Ahman Green and Javon Walker are gone for the rest of this season"¦Gado and Taco are the replacements. Brett Favre seemed to be able to get the new-personnel offense moving Sunday, but too often interceptions plagued him. Favre had a bad hair day finishing with a career-high five interceptions on the day.
The defense played fairly well in the second half, but all those turnovers on the road were just too much to overcome. The loss to the Bengals is the fifth loss this season by a cumulative total of only 12 points. Unfortunately, that statistic is one that only a losing team could relate to. Although the Packers put forth another game effort, a loss is a loss is a loss.
If there is anything to be positive about, I thought rookies Nick Collins and Brady Poppinga played well. The latter is getting more and more snaps as the season progresses and I would not be surprised to see even more of him in the second half of the season. Poppinga reminds me of Bryce Paup of a former era. Collins is progressing nicely too.
The Packers have a real handful next week when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late game at Lambeau. The Steelers have a potent running game, a stout defense and a pretty good young quarterback. The Steelers will no doubt be the heavy favorite. Mike Sherman may have to reach deep in his bag of tricks to keep this contest close.