I think I speak for Bengals fans everywhere when I say: QJLNDLNKJWN:ND:NLWNDNUIU!!#()@)@IIOHLNLKNFNNAJAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?!?!??!??!?!
That’s what I had written at halftime, specifically after the Bengals turned the ball over four consecutive times on offense. This was before we’d missed a field goal, had an extra point blocked, and inexplicably decided to not go for a 2-point conversion when down sixteen. And yet somehow in this wacky, bizarre season (the Steelers, Giants, and Redskins are a combined 0-9; the Raiders, Browns, and Panthers have records as good as the 49ers and Green Bay—I know it’s very early, but still), in one of the most engaging, infuriating but entertaining regular reason games I’ve ever seen, the Bengals pulled it out of the bag.
After a sweet opening in which the Bengals improbably scored twice in ten seconds, the first half became a war of attrition, proving that if you really put your mind to something, you can achieve it. Unfortunately, what the Bengals offense had put its mind to was “losing this game.” By contrast, the defense played utterly sensational football: Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson looking like The Mighty Ducks ‘Bash Brothers,’ swarming all over the best QB in the game; Leon Hall smothering his receiver assignments; George Iloka breaking Packers TE Jermichael Finley.
Despite the defensive heroics, the Packers put up 30 consecutive points. They had help, of course. Aaron Rodgers had, at times, up to ten seconds in which to throw the ball thanks to the defense’s exhaustion and the official’s lack of willingness to call holding penalties on lovely Green Bay (they’re owned by the fans, don’t you know?). The refs did throw a flag on Reggie Nelson for “roughing the passer.” It isn’t entirely clear what the NFL means by “roughing” in this context, but presumably it means “to breath lightly nearby.” Rodgers, despite being the NFL’s golden boy, is notoriously unpopular with teammates, and after watching him Sunday it was easy to see why: His total aversion to human contact of any kind must make it difficult for him to foster relationships. The Bengals walking-wounded secondary was depleted still further when Adam Jones accidentally violated the NFL’s “getting too close to Aaron Rodgers, we’re talking within 8 yards, just watch it” policy and was sentenced to death by firing squad.
Miraculously, and entirely unaided by Katy Perry, the Bengals came roaring back to win, the first team in 15 years to do so after conceding 30 straight points, and the first team ever to do so after leading by 14 and then trailing by 16 in the same game. Andy Dalton out-dueled A-Rodg (really—look it up!), finding AJ Green and Marvin Jones in the end zone. The Bengals couldn’t make things easy though, missing a field goal, and having an extra point blocked, finding themselves down 30-27 with the clock winding down. The D had done its part, with picks from Hall and Terrence Newman (who only intercepts the very best—he has three interceptions for the Bengals: two from Peyton Manning and now one from Rodgers), but Green Bay produced a crucial third down conversion.
….And then Marvin threw the challenge flag. And in that moment, the game—perhaps the season—changed. The challenge was successful (personally, I always believed it would be, and any suggestion that I slammed my head onto a table before launching into a five minute rant about how Marvin Lewis is the worst challenger in the history of challenges is a damn lie), and when the Packers went for it on fourth and inches, Michael Johnson smashed the ball out of the RB’s hands, Reggie Nelson scooped it up, fumbled it himself (just for fun), and Newman ran the ball home.
When Johnson swatted down Rogers final pass with a minute left on the clock, the game was over and the Bengals had won a glorious, improbable, and borderline psychotic victory. At least Monday’s papers will all be saying how good a team this is—to knock off a Super Bowl favourite (Ed’s note: Again, so British), despite four early turnovers and conceding 30 straight points?!
Or, the papers are largely ignoring the game except to note those four turnovers and the fact that Green Bay “collapsed.” Oh well.
Bengals 34, Packers 30
Man Of The Match: The Bash Brothers terrorized Rodgers all afternoon (at least as much as they could given that the actual terrorizing of Aaron Rodgers is punishable by the NFL with a fine no less than death and up to a maximum of the repossession of your first-born child), Terrence Newman had the game of his life, but it was Leon Hall who shut down multi-purpose threat Randall Cobb, picked of Rodgers, chased down running backs, and made punishing hits all over the field.